On New Year’s Eve a few years ago, I stood on London’s Primrose Hill and enjoyed what was then the novel sight of a procession of Chinese lanterns floating beautifully through the night sky, without worrying too much about where they were going to come down.
Now it seems a Chinese lantern has descended in a wrong enough place to cause what some are describing as the worst fire ever in England’s West Midlands, a blaze at a recycling plant that occupied 200 firefighters and caused damage estimated at £6 million.
About 100,000 tons of plastic caught fire at the depot near Smethwick on Sunday, and a few firemen are still at the scene today. A Liberal Democrat MP has now demanded a ban on the lanterns, and the local council has asked shops to stop selling them.
Their sale is already banned in Australia, while in most parts of Germany, it is illegal to launch them, as it is in South American countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile. They are also prohibited in the city of Sanya - in China.