Naphtally Erasmus had to have three of his fingers amputated after a firecracker exploded in his hand. Photo: Danie van der Lith

Kimberley - Five people were injured as a result of fireworks when the city exploded in one of its worst New Year’s celebration in terms of the illegal use of fireworks.

Kimberley MediClinic spokeswoman, Denise Coetzee, said on Thursday that five people, including two young children, were brought into the hospital’s emergency room on New Year’s Day with fireworks-related injuries.

She said the two children, a girl aged three and a boy aged four, were treated in the emergency ward for burn wounds after coming into contact with exploding fireworks.

Two adults were also admitted with serious burn wounds after they picked up lit fireworks, which exploded in their hands.

The fifth victim, a 30-year-old Kimberley man, had to have three of his fingers amputated after a firecracker exploded in his hand in the first minutes of 2014.

Speaking from his hospital bed, Naphtally Erasmus, a correctional officer at the Tswelopele Correctional Centre, on Thursday told the DFA how his festive celebration turned into a tragedy within seconds.

Erasmus said that he was celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends and family in Warrenton when the incident happened.

“As the clock struck midnight, I lit a firecracker but it would not take flame. I tried again, but before I could release it, it exploded in my hand. Following the loud explosion and bright light, I looked down at my hand and saw that the tips of both my thumb and index fingers were completely blown off.

“The tip of my middle finger was hanging by a small piece of skin. There was blood everywhere and I was in excruciating pain. My wife and my nine-year-old daughter were screaming and crying. It was absolute chaos,” Erasmus said.

He was taken to the Warrenton Hospital where he was stabilised before being transferred to the Kimberley MediClinic. He had to have the three fingers further amputated through an emergency operation.

Erasmus said that following the incident, he would never again touch fireworks, or allow any member of his family to come close to one.

“With that one bang, my whole life changed. I am left without fingerprints and will have to relearn basic tasks such as eating and writing. The worst is that it happened on my right hand, the one I use the most. People never realise the dangers until tragedy strikes. I hope my injuries will serve as a warning to others not to take chances with fireworks. They are definitely not toys,” Erasmus added.

Firework merchants across the city on Thursday said they experienced unprecedented firework sales this festive season, with one outlet saying they sold fireworks worth more than R60 000.

The spokesman for the Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie, said on Thursday that although it was legal to buy fireworks, the Fireworks Bylaw of 2006 states that, except as part of a fireworks display and subject to this bylaw, no person could discharge fireworks inside a developed area or within 500 metres of such area.

“In terms of the bylaw, a ‘developed area’ refers to an area within the municipality which has by actual survey been subdivided into erven, is surrounded by surveyed erven or is an informal settlement,” he said.

Matsie added that any person or group of persons who wanted to hold a fireworks display had to apply in writing for permission on the form provided by the municipality, at least 30 days before such display was to be held.

He also said that any person who contravened or failed to comply with this bylaw or any requirement or condition therein, would be guilty of an offence and could be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year, or to both a fine and such imprisonment.

He did, however, add, that it was up to the police to enforce this bylaw.

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