MANILA: At least eight people were killed and more than 600 others were injured in bombings, firecrackers blasts and gunfire as the Philippines celebrated the coming of the new year Tuesday and early Wednesday, officials said.
The military and police said six of the dead were killed when a homemade bomb exploded at a kiosk in the southern town of Sumisip in Basilan island province during a New Year’s party late Tuesday.
Ten others wounded, said Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.
Zagala said the motive was still unknown.
Hours earlier in Cotabato province’s Carmen township also in the south, a motorcycle-riding assailant hurled a grenade outside a Protestant church wounding a mother, her three children and another girl, police said. Police said three men on two motorcycles were seen speeding away.
Capt. Antonio Bulao, a local army spokesman, said the assailants may have planned to attack a local police outpost but decided to throw the grenade at a weaker target.
At least two others who were reported killed during the revelry were from the northern part of the country.
In northern province of Cagayan, a fireworks fountain display packed with firecrackers exploded and killed a 19-year-old man, while an infant boy was killed by a bullet that went through the roof of the family’s house in Ilocos Sur province.
Doctors in nearby Ilocos Norte province said another boy is fighting for his life after he was hit in the forehead by a bullet that is still lodged in his head.
About 50 hospitals nationwide reported 599 injured from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1, a 43 percent jump from the same period last year, said Department of Health spokesman Dr. Eric Tayag.
The deaths and injuries come at the end of a year where several disasters hit the Philippines, including the Nov. 8 Super Typhoon Haiyan, locally called Yolanda, that left more than 6,100 dead and nearly 1,800 others missing.
“Many here are welcoming the new year after losing their mothers, fathers, siblings and children so you can imagine how it feels,” said village chief Maria Rosario Bactol of Anibong community in Tacloban, the city worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan.
Tayag said he expects the number of injuries to rise as the Health Department continues its count through Sunday.
Many Filipinos, largely influenced by Chinese tradition, believe that raucous New Year’s celebrations drive away evil and misfortune, and set off huge firecrackers and fire guns despite dangers and threats of arrest.
This year, there was even firecracker sold on the illegal market — Super Yolanda — which was named after the killer typhoon.