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Hundreds hurt in New Year revelry

world Updated: Jan 01, 2008 11:43 IST

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About 450 people were injured by stray bullets and firecrackers as the Philippines held its traditionally raucous New Year festivities, but the number was far less than in previous years, authorities said on Tuesday.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said hospitals from all over the country had reported 450 cases of injuries from New Year's Eve celebrations. There were no deaths.

"Most of the injuries were superficial and there were no deaths. This is most gratifying," Duque said in a statement.

Last New Year's Eve, more than 600 people were wounded, and at least seven were killed in celebrations that began at Christmas.

"It was generally peaceful," national police chief General Avelino Razon told Reuters. "If we compare it with previous years, there is a big difference. There were less firecrackers available because of the campaign of the police and the department of health to confiscate firecrackers."

Razon said he had received reports that stray bullets hit 10 people during the revelry.

The Christmas/New Year holiday season is avidly celebrated in the Roman Catholic nation with widespread street fiestas and parties in malls and restaurants.

Streets and parks are the venue for noisy fireworks displays and some mark midnight by firing into the air. Many Filipinos believe that a noisy beginning to the New Year will drive away bad luck and evil spirits.