With the New Year celebration approaching, the authorities in Alsace want to avoid another tragedy in the region which was plunged into mourning for two consecutive years because of accidents due to the use of firecrackers.
The Alsace prefecture has launched several awareness campaigns in order to warn people of the dangers of using certain types of explosives.
But this conflicts with a long-lasting tradition in this region of eastern France.
Every year at midnight the whole area is drawn into a gigantic display of firecrackers and of fireworks.
The custom that comes from the Germanic world usually takes place in a friendly atmosphere. But more and more accidents have occurred in the past years.
Two people were killed in 2012 as well as one person last year.
Among the people that have been wounded – most frequently in the eyes or in the hands – some have had to have one or several fingers cut off.
On Christmas day, the prefect of the region Stéphane Bouillon had to restate publicly his instructions to be cautious after a man wounded his hand after lighting up a firecracker, just one week before the New Year's celebration.
In order to contain this pyrotechnic surge, authorities in the region have established radical regulations.
Only small firecrackers are authorized while mortars (a kind of firing device) are totally prohibited.
Party-goers who would try to bypass the ban by buying these products in neighbouring Germany where regulations are more flexible risk having their purchase confiscated at the frontier.
On the other hand shopkeepers who would sell prohibited firecrackers in Alsace risk an important fine.
On New Year’s Eve the police will increase street controls and will seize explosives that are too powerful, the prefect warned.