In Italy, New Years Eve celebrations include setting off fireworks at midnight, and every year hundreds of people need hospital treatment for burns and other injuries as a result. The production and sale of fireworks is licensed but there is a very active black market, often selling illegally imported bangers.

In the past few days the police have confiscated more than eleven tons of fireworks and have closed down two unauthorised production plants in the Rome area. They have also arrested a pensioner from a town 38 km to the south east of Rome who was found storing five tons of illegal fireworks in two shreds in nearby villages. Worth about 300,000 the hundreds of boxes of explosives were being stored in precarious conditions in populated areas. The most dangerous fireworks had names such as Bin Laden and The head of Saddam, which contain enough explosive to destroy a family car.

Despite the police crackdown and repeated warnings of the dangers, shopkeepers are reporting a ten per cent increase in sales of legal fireworks this year.