Locked down Berliners spark blazes with home fireworks

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Banned from setting off fireworks in much of their city, some Berliners instead tried to launch them from their homes on New Year's Eve, leading to dozens of fires across the German capital.

Between midnight (2300 GMT) and just six minutes later, the Berlin fire service said it was called to 18 fires, with more following deeper into the night. No one was initially reported seriously injured.

Berlin revellers usually take to the streets to light up the sky with fireworks on New Year's Eve but authorities banned the use of fireworks in certain public places, including more than 50 zones in the capital, to discourage large crowds from gathering.

The sale of fireworks was also prohibited in the run up to Dec. 31 in Germany, which is locked down with only essential shops open until at least Jan. 10 to try to suppress the new coronavirus.

After faring better than many of its neighbours in the early stage of the pandemic last year, Germany has suffered a surge in cases and fatalities linked to COVID-19. A record daily high of 1,129 new cases were reported on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Reuters TV and Paul Carrel; Editing by Kim Coghill)