New Year Celebrations Cause 194 Beijing Fires

BEIJING (AP) - State media are reporting that people celebrating the Lunar New Year by setting off fireworks in Beijing caused 194 fires in the Chinese capital, double the number from last year.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday that the fires were not serious, but added that 388 people were hurt by fireworks during the first six days of the holiday period.

The tradition of setting off fireworks to ward off evil spirits results in injuries and fires every year, with the biggest fire during this year's holiday period gutting a five-star hotel in northeast China. There were no casualties.

Xinhua said Beijing mobilized a force of 840,000 police and civilians to help prevent firework-induced disasters during the holiday.

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