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No licence for Lija fireworks factory

‘Feast will be jeopardised’

Borderline factories, such as Lija, could be required to store the fireworks some distance away from where they are produced. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Borderline factories, such as Lija, could be required to store the fireworks some distance away from where they are produced. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The Lija fireworks factory, one of Malta’s main pyrotechnic pro­ducers, has not been awarded a licence for the coming year, The Times has learnt.

Police have not issued St Michael’s Fireworks Club with a licence, which must be renewed annually, Brigadier Martin Xuereb, head of the Explosives Committee, confirmed.

As a result, the Armed Forces of Malta has refused to issue a consignment of pyrotechnic chemicals to the factory, igniting protests from enthusiasts who say the town’s famed display in August during the feast of the Trans­figuration of Jesus is in jeopardy.

The decision is related to the proximity of the factory, which sits on the Iklin hill, to a large cluster of terraced houses. By law there must be a buffer zone of 183 metres between fireworks factories and inhabited property.

Club secretary Joseph Mangion admitted the distance between the factory and a main road running directly in front of the properties was some six metres short of the legal requirement but insisted that the houses were well outside the buffer zone.

The Police Commissioner was asked why the licence was not renewed and why the decision was only taken now, seeing as the factory has been in this situation for years.

However, no response was forthcoming by the time of going to print.

The issue regarding the factory’s buffer zone has been long-standing and includes concerns over a nearby school. However, the Lija club has stressed over the years that the factory has been in the area far longer than the surrounding developments.

Legal amendments about to be passed in Parliament could provide a solution for the Lija factory and other plants whose proximity to urban areas has been an issue over the years.

The amendments provide a compromise for such borderline factories by introducing a requirement for the fireworks to be stored elsewhere.

To this effect, Mr Mangion told The Times that the Lija club had bought a second property in Salina, which was licensed to hold fireworks and where the club had stored fireworks in the past.

“But, in the meantime, the clock is ticking,” Mr Mangion said.

“We already know that part of the display for this year’s feast has been compromised because the only way to make up for lost time would be to cut corners on safety.

“We also feel it is unfair that a cleric from our village (Mgr Charles Scicluna) will be ordained as bishop (on Saturday) and we’re not going to be able to have any fireworks.”

The development comes in the wake of the latest fireworks tragedy at the Qalb Ta’ Gesù factory in Għarb where four people died in an explosion on October 28.

The tragedy reignited the debate on fireworks safety and, ironically, one of the urgent measures suggested by both enthusiasts and experts lobbying for tougher regulation has been to increase the number of factories.

Over the years, a series of accidents have destroyed some major factories, forcing production to be concentrated in the hands of a few plans – a situation which those in the industry believe increases the risks.

 

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