Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year in Hamburg

Last night in Hamburg City Center

Hamburg - New Year's Eve fireworks attract people of all ages into the streets of Hamburg Germany to ring in the coming year with colourful fountains of fire, glittering, noisy displays and loud bangs. However, the festive spirit turns dangerous every year when many a firecracker explodes too close to someone in the crowd. Burns, eye injuries and trauma caused by the blasts are among the most common outcomes. But some of these accidents could be avoided.

"Despite all the instructions and warnings, firecrackers are consistently handled wrongly or carelessly. Typically, alcohol and the heightened mood of the evening are contributing factors," said Klaus Gotzen, director of a German association representing the pyrotechnic industry.

Things go badly when rockets are ignited in the hand instead of on a standing object like a bottle or when they are thrown onto the ground or into a crowd.

"A dangerous firecracker is one that doesn't explode," said Georg Eckert, a spokesman for German professional association of ophthalmologists. "People are surprised when it doesn't go off. They walk up to it to have a look and in precisely that moment it explodes."

The same thing can happen with a rocket and any other type of pyrotechnic - on New Year's Eve and on the following day. Another common situation occurs when revellers try to protect themselves from flying slivers and sparks.

"Very often children are victims, not because they are playing around with firecrackers, but because the adults are celebrating carelessly and are not paying attention to the kids," said Johann Boehmann, head doctor of a children's hospital in north-west Germany. "Children cannot accurately assess danger."

In addition dazzling fireworks magically attract them.

Most of Boehmann's patients have suffered burns or been scalded, most commonly in the face and hands. As fireworks reach extremely high temperatures, these injuries are very painful and especially dangerous, and they result in lifelong scars.

"In acute cases, the most important thing is to wash the wound with clear water and cool it down," said Boehmann. A doctor should always be consulted when the face or hands are injured. The eyes are particularly vulnerable. They are quickly irritated by powder, smoke and other fumes released by fireworks.

"When a firecracker explodes too close to the body, the smoke powder often gets into the eyes," said Eckert. In this case the eye should be rinsed with cold to lukewarm water to remove the smoke powder. Rubbing is taboo because it can make the injury worse and cause bleeding.

Even worse is when a hot ember gets into the eye.

"A glowing, iron-hot, bitten off sparkler can burn into the cornea," said Eckert. "They cause redness, heavy tearing and pain and they must be removed by an eye doctor."

Another sinister danger is the damage firecrackers can cause to the ear. When New Year's Eve firecrackers explode nearby they reach a volume of 130 decibels, said Juergen Matthies, an audio specialist in Nienburg, Germany.

"One single such bang can trigger auditory trauma," Matthies said. Thus, keeping sufficient distance from the explosion is the best protection.//dpa

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