Police, health officials kick off seasonal fireworks campaign

Fireworkds found on a San José-bound bus and a load discovered on a truck in Guanacaste. Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photos

Many people welcome Christmas time and all that may come with it — food, family, presents and vacations. But staff at the Hospital Nacional del Niños in San José is bracing for a season not only marked by the traditional perks, but also explosives.

The burn ward at the children’s hospital reported that since the beginning of 2008 through 2010, 26 children have been treated there for injuries as a result of fireworks and other similar explosives. Fireworks can cause injuries ranging from negligible burns to shredded flesh, lost appendages and even death.

This year to date the hospital’s staff has administered care to only three such cases, but the seasonal increase in explosives is still looming.

In an effort to curb the potential danger to children the hospital along with several other government agencies have launched a public awareness campaign. It kicked off Wednesday with a meeting of government officials representing several agencies.

Dr. Daisy María Corrales Díaz, minister of Salud, stressed the role of parents in preventing firework injuries to children.

“The children don’t have the capacity to understand that the unsafe use of pyrotechnics or fireworks can cause to their bodies,” she said in a press release.
A spokesperson from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said the Fuerza Pública has been working to do its part and had already seized more than 30,000 units of illegal fireworks across the country, including the bomb-type and exploding variety. The press release notes that the sale of fireworks to minors is illegal and punishable with three to seven years in prison.

Police and health officials traditionally embark on an anti-fireworks campaign at the start of the Christmas season.
The basic rule in Costa Rica is that if a device explodes, it is illegal. Sparklers and other types of non-exploding devices are permitted.

Costa Rica manufactures fireworks, but many of the confiscated loads are smuggled from Nicaragua. In a curious case Oct. 18, robbers raided a fireworks factory in Ochomogo de Cartago and made off with goods valued at 100 million colons, perhaps $200,000. Investigators made arrests in that case and recovered much of the fireworks.

Last Sept. 24, the Fuerza Pública intercepted a load of 62,704 explosive devices hidden in fertilizer. The truck came from Nicaragua, and the driver was detained.

Sunday Fuerza Pública officers intercepted another load in Guanacaste. This one contained 570 explosive devices. The fireworks were being transported on a bus on the Upala-San José route. The devices were called double thunder, and police said they were highly explosive. No arrest was made in this case because no one on the bus claimed the suitcase that contained the fireworks, said police at the time.

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