Sunday, 14 July 2013

Panic and injuries in 'Running of the Bulls' pile-up in Pamplona

Local television showed scenes of sheer chaos as piles of fallen runners blocked the entrance to the bullring in Pamplona on the seventh day of the famed San Fermín Festival, or the "Running of the Bulls."

This event was the second to last day of the San Fermín fiesta, which draws festival-goers and daredevils from around the world for a week of perilous bull-runs, partying and fun.

Towards the end point of the frantic dash through the cobbled streets of Pamplona, some runners at the front tripped, then spectators watched in horror as ten half-ton bulls plowed into the back of a huge scrum of around 200 people, all piled on top of one another.

Due to the crush of people, several of the bulls were unable to get through to the arena, causing even more chaos, with runners trying to pull their companions free, while bulls jumped over the crowd, crushing and goring people in their wake.

According to Javier Sesma, health spokesperson for Navarra province, 21 people were injured, some gored by the bulls, and others who were hurt in the stampede itself. Sesma said that one runner, a 19-year-old Spaniard from Vitoria city, was seriously injured when his thorax was crushed.

“It is a very grave situation. He’s in a stable condition, but it’s very serious,” Sesma said.

An 18-year-old Spaniard was gored in the armpit, and a 35-year-old man American was gored in his buttocks during the 928-yard dash through the narrow streets, but reportedly these injuries are not so serious. Other injured parties suffered cuts and bruises, and Sesma said that one spectator suffered a heart attack whilst watching the incident.

Runners being gored by the bulls does happen from time to time, but apparently stampedes of this nature are luckily quite rare. According to Reuters only 14 people have died in the last 100 years in the San Fermín festival, which dates back from the 13th century.

The "Running of the Bulls" is characterized by runners, dressed all in white with red neckerchiefs, watched by hundreds of spectators, who stay up drinking all night in the bars, presumably to get up the courage to run with the huge bulls. 

Author Ernest Hemingway, a great fan of Spain, gave publicity to the event after writing about it in his book "The Sun Also Rises."

Apparently this year, Hemingway's great-grandson, 16-year-old Michael Hemingway, attended the event, 90 years after his famous great-grandfather Ernest first visited the city, and was seen to be taking plenty of photographs of the event.

For interest, below is a black and white photo of Hemingway, taken in 1925 with the persons depicted in the novel "The Sun Also Rises." In the photo we can see Hemingway, Harold Loeb, Lady Duff Twysden, Hadley Richardson, Ogden Stewart and Pat Guthrie. 

Photographer not specified, owned by John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

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