Germany sees largely quiet New Year’s Eve despite several serious firework injuries

Berlin's Brandenburg Gate is illuminated for the
Berlin's Brandenburg Gate is illuminated for the "Welcome 2022" TV show on New Year's Eve, December 31st, 2021. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP)
One man died and tens of others suffered serious injuries from illegal fireworks across Germany, but officials said it was a quiet New Year's Eve overall with many events and parties cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There were a few firecrackers here and there and the odd small fight. But given the occasion, it was minimal,” one police spokesperson in Hamburg said, Tagesschau reported on Saturday.

“It was much less than before Covid-19,” a police spokesperson in Kiel added, while the Dortmund fire brigade reported the “quietest service shift of all time”. 

Major events, such as the traditional New Year’s Eve party at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, were cancelled as a result of rising case numbers. But “several thousand people” still gathered in the area around midnight, according to police spokesperson Thilo Cablitz.

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Many came to the area wanting to see the new year in at the Berlin landmark but slowly dispersed when officers asked them to leave the area.

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Across Germany, fireworks caused several severe accidents even though the sale of fireworks had been banned for New Year’s Eve, like last year, mainly so that emergency services and hospitals wouldn’t have to treat firework-related injuries as well as Covid-19 patients. 

A 37-year-old man in Hennef near Bonn died after handling what were probably homemade firecrackers at a private New Year’s Eve party with ten people. Another man sustained serious injuries.

And in Leipzig, a man sustained life-threatening injuries, after lighting what were also thought to be homemade firecrackers.

In Berlin, 12 people, including an 11-year-old boy, were injured in Berlin and were taken to hospital for treatment. 

In Hamburg, at least two people were seriously injured when fireworks were set off, including one man who was hit in the face by an exploding firecracker and is in critical condition.

Despite bans on gatherings, police officers said there were thousands of people out and about in the city, with around 10,000 in the St Pauli area.

And in Bochum, a man sustained serious facial injuries after being hit in the face by a rocket, the local fire brigade said.

There were also arguments and fights around the country.

In Stuttgart city centre, police said they had used batons and pepper spray against a crowd of aggressive party-goers who had harassed officers and pelted them with firecrackers. 

Dresden police officers said they were pelted with objects by around 50 to 100 people who were setting fire to things on the street. 

And in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, there were fewer incidents than in pre-Covid-19 New Year’s celebrations, but far more than those seen in 2020.

Physical injuries doubled to 303, while there were 93 cases of dangerous physical injuries, compared to 62 in the previous year, the police national control centre said.

The number of sexual offences rose to 27 from 19 previously and the number of incidences in which property was damaged also increased.

The police also issued 1,069 notices to leave an area – up from 821 in the previous year.

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