A series of explosions on a barge filled with fireworks in Balluta Bay shook St Julians at 7.30 p.m. yesterday. Luckily there were no injuries.

The barge was due to let off a fireworks display later in the evening on the occasion of the feast of St Gregory in Sliema.

A member of the committee of the St Gregory's Musical Society said that no one was injured as a result of the safety measures taken. In fact, there was no one on the barge at the time of the explosion, as the fireworks, consisting of a series of small petards known as kaxxa tal-ħruġ, were to be set off by remote control.

"We always adopt the safety first rule," said the committee member.

"We do this by letting off the fireworks from a barge by means of a wireless system. And this is exactly why there were no injuries as a result of this explosion."

Not knowing that there was no one on the barge, a foreigner jumped into the sea off the Neptunes waterpolo pitch nearby with the intention of rescuing anyone who could have been on the barge at the time of the explosion. For a short while, the Armed Forces had to stage a search for the man who was later picked up and brought back to shore safely.

St Julians residents, families picnicking in the area and passers-by who were in the vicinity heard a few fireworks being let off followed by a serious of rapid explosions. Some residents said they experienced a rumbling sensation as if an earthquake had struck their homes.

People who witnessed the explosion told The Times that on Saturday part of the beach in Balluta was cordoned off with tape, preventing swimmers from swimming across or going on the pontoon (ċattra) in the middle of the bay. Yesterday, however, there was no tape.

"Our children felt free to go on the pontoon," said one resident, expressing gratitude that no one was hurt.

Last week, petards from the St Julians barge ended up smashing the window panes of a room of the Rokna Hotel in St Julians at around 8 a.m. while residents were sleeping inside the room.

Yesterday's fireworks explosion coincided with the 25th anniversary today of a fireworks tragedy when four soldiers and three policemen were killed at sea as the firworks they were disposing of exploded on a patrol boat.

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