Votive paper fire kills 3 in northern Vietnam

Thanh Nien News

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Nguyen Van Thung, 20, is covered in a blanket at a hospital in Nghe An Province after an explosion, suspected to come from his firecracker production, on December 14, 2014. Photo: Pham Duc Nguyen Van Thung, 20, is covered in a blanket at a hospital in Nghe An Province after an explosion, suspected to come from his firecracker production, on December 14, 2014. Photo: Pham Duc

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Three people were killed in a votive paper fire in the northern province of Bac Ninh Sunday night, while suspected firecracker production in Nghe An left the maker critical.
Nguyen Van Toan, deputy police chief of Bac Ninh, around 30 kilometers from Hanoi, said the fire killed three people including a little girl from a family who produced paper offerings in Thuan Thanh District.
Toan told news website VnExpress that two other people were injured and are under treatment.
An eyewitness told VnExpress that the fire started at around 11 p.m. at the store on the ground and quickly spread to the second floor.
“Several minutes later, a person jumped from the second floor to the ground and was heavily injured,” the local said.

A fire from votive paper on December 14, 2014 has burned a house in Bac Ninh Province. Photo credit: VnExpress
Fire police put out the flame at more than 1 a.m.
Vietnamese people, especially those in the north, believe that the votive paper models they burn rematerialize as real gifts for the spirits of their deceased family members and ancestors in the afterlife.
The government has been trying to limit the practice, which they considered a waste of money that comes with various safety threats such as fire.
National official figures in 2010 show that Vietnamese people, especially those in the north, burn tens of thousands of tons of votive paper every year.
Hanoians spent the most on votive offerings -- an estimated VND400 billion ($20.6 million) a year.
Police are investigating the cause of the fire in Bac Ninh.
Meanwhile, officers in the north central province of Nghe An are trying to confirm their suspicion of a firecracker explosion which also happened Sunday night.
Neighbors in the province’s capital town, Vinh, found Nguyen Van Thung, 20, unconscious on the second floor as they rushed over his house after hearing the blast and screams.
They rushed him to Nghe An General Hospital, which forwarded him to Hanoi that same night, as urged by the family, according to VnExpress.
A doctor at the Nghe An hospital said Thung’s left hand and both legs were smashed.
He told VnExpress that tens of victim’s relatives took him to the hospital but they refused to share what caused the injuries.
“They didn’t let us perform blood test or scans.”
The explosion threw debris all over the room, broke a wardrobe into pieces and left holes on the fiber cement roof.
A police officer said they suspected firecracker production.
“But we have to wait for the victim to recover and take his statements, so we cannot make a conclusion yet.”
Vietnamese government banned firecrackers in 1995, but a number of people have been making firecrackers since, or smuggling them from China.
The production was usually exposed when things went off.
Vietnamese people used to set off firecrackers for New Lunar Year festival, or Tet, the country’s biggest holiday which will peak February 19 next year.

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