Yesterday, a fireworks truck exploded on an expressway bridge in the central province of Henan, leaving at least nine dead. The New York Times reports:
A truck laden with fireworks exploded on an elevated expressway in central China on Friday, unleashing a blast that threw vehicles 30 yards to the ground below and killing at least nine people, state news reports said.
The truck was on an expressway near Sanmenxia in Henan Province in morning fog when the truck erupted, causing an 87-yard section of the Yichang Bridge to collapse, according to the Web site of Dahe Daily, a newspaper in Henan, which quoted rescue officials at the site. Earlier, officials had raised the possibility that a bridge collapse set off the explosion.
Fireworks are a tradition of China’s traditional Lunar New Year celebrations, which begin on Feb. 9, and the explosion was a reminder of the dangers brought by the crush of people and goods on the move before the holiday.
[…]China Central Television reported that one eyewitness injured in the accident said that because of an earlier accident before the explosion, traffic had been snarled on the expressway and a number of vehicles had crashed into one another.
Initial coverage reported at least 26 were killed in the explosion and a further 15 injured, though more recent coverage claims lower numbers of casualties.
This incident highlights safety concerns surrounding the traditional use of fireworks in Spring Festival celebrations. From The Guardian:
The accident is a stark reminder of safety hazards often associated with Chinese new year celebrations, which begin this year on 10 February. 5,945 fire accidents were reported during the first day of last year’s spring festival alone, according to Xinhua.
In 2006, 367 people were killed at a temple fair in Henan when a storeroom of fireworks exploded, according to the Associated Press. Six years earlier, an explosion at an unlicensed fireworks factory killed 33 people, many of them children.
The Chinese government outlawed fireworks from 1993 to 2005, but ultimately lifted the ban under intense public pressure.
In 2010, a lunar holiday fireworks explosion caused damage and death in Guangdong province, and in 2011 state media reported two dead and 223 more injured over the holiday period in Beijing. After air pollution readings hit record levels in Beijing recently, safety is no longer the only argument for curbing the traditional celebratory use of fireworks. People’s Daily reports:
Air pollution concerns have prompted Beijing authorities to ask residents to set off fewer fireworks during the upcoming Spring Festival.
“To improve the air quality and create a favorable environment for you and your family members, please set off fewer fireworks or no fireworks, in order to reduce emissions of pollutants,” an official with the Beijing Office on Fireworks and Firecrackers said Friday.
The official said the office has closely followed Beijing’s air quality reports and issued the proposal to citizens via media.
[…]After an hours-long firework-ignition spree on the eve of the Lunar New Year in 2012, the density of PM2.5 increased sharply to hit 1,593 micrograms per cubic meter at the Chegongzhuang monitoring station, located downtown, or 1.5 times higher than the most polluted day so far this year in Beijing. ( The prolonged smog that shrouded many parts of north and east China in January sparked debate over fireworks during the Spring Festival.