Injuries spur call for fireworks ban

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Recklessness and a rash of injuries during the New Year’s holiday have led to calls for a total ban on private fireworks in the Norwegian capital, and possibly other cities and towns as well. Police in Oslo had trouble with crowd control on the City Hall plaza New Year’s Eve, and were stunned when some people carelessly lit rockets amidst hordes of onlookers.

Fireworks over Oslo have been popular, but this year things got out of hand. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Fireworks over Oslo have been popular, but this year things got out of hand. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“That’s terribly dangerous, stop that right now!” yelled one policewoman at a well-dressed man as he was about to light a box of fireworks he’d just set down on the pavement. Dozens of New Year’s Eve revelers were standing nearby, and the man didn’t seem to give a thought to how the entire box could blow up in his own or someone else’s face.

That’s exactly what happened to a 23-year-old man in Bergen who wound up blinded in his left eye and suffering burns after he had trouble finding the fuse on what he called a “mid-sized” box of pyrotechnics. “When I thought I’d found it and lit it, it just went ‘kaboom’,” the man identified only as “Dani” told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) from his hospital afterwards. “I was standing right over it and got it straight in my face. I will never touch fireworks again.”

The head of Oslo’s city government, shocked by the behaviour of some members of the crowd massed on City Hall plaza Monday night, doesn’t want others to touch them again either. Stian Berger Røsland told NRK Wednesday that he plans to propose a complete ban on fireworks.

“It must be possible for folks to gather on Rådhusplassen (the plaza) and mark New Year’s Eve without risking being shot by fireworks,” Røsland told NRK. “There were scenes (on the plaza) that we never want to see in Oslo again, and that we must take steps not to see again.”

It already is forbidden to shoot up fireworks within the central part of Oslo bordered by so-called “Ring 2,” and the city has provided a fireworks show instead. There also is a ban on some forms of rockets, but now Røsland thinks the current restrictions don’t go far enough.

“I don’t want to be a party pooper and I realize that many people enjoy fireworks,” Røsland said. “But the question is whether we can accept that some fireworks can still be legally purchased at stands all over town, and then set off amidst crowds of people.” He noted that many of those setting off fireworks are also under the influence of alcohol.

Nearly as many people are injured by fireworks now as before the current restrictions were put in place a few years ago, reported newspaper Aftenposten. Not a single political party has proposed a fireworks ban, though, so it’s unclear whether Røsland from the Conservatives will get very far with his proposal. He said the problems are mainly found in the cities, and that it should be allowed to have different regulations for different areas.

Justice Minister Grete Faremo of the Labour Party claimed a ban on some forms of rockets in 2008 has reduced injuries, and she doesn’t support a total ban. She thinks it’s enough to issue warnings about use of fireworks.

“Injuries from fireworks are a tragedy,” she said. “The goal is to enforce the ban on prohibited rockets and reduce injuries that result from incorrect use of legal fireworks.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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