More than 40 injured in Pamplona bull-run festival

14th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Fighting bulls wounded three thrill-seekers in the final bull-run of Spain's San Fermin festival Thursday, bringing the overall tally to more than 40 injured.

The half-tonne beasts sped through cobbled streets of the northern city of Pamplona on the eighth and last daily bull-run of a festival expected to have drawn more than a million tourists.

The six bulls and six steers charged 846.6 metres from a pen to the bullring in a quick two minutes 20 seconds, organisers said.

Thousands of daredevils in white clothes and red bandanas packed around the animals on every bull-run of the festival, many dicing with danger by running just ahead of the bulls' horns.

In the final run, three people tumbled and were hospitalised: a 21-year-old Frenchman with a shoulder injury, and two local Pamplona residents aged 43 and 54 with cuts and bruises to their heads.

At least 38 people had been hospitalised for injuries in the previous seven bull-runs, according to the organisers' daily tallies, including four skewered by the bulls' horns -- a potentially lethal injury.

In the most serious injury this year, a bull's horn sliced a 20-centimetre (eight-inch) deep wound into the side of 40-year-old Pamplona resident Mikel Sabate on Tuesday, piercing his diaphram but missing vital organs.

He remains in hospital after undergoing a three-hour operation but his life is not in danger.

"When you are gored, you feel as if you have been stabbed, like a truck has run over you. My back was covered in blood, but those are the risks of the bull run," Sabate told reporters from his hospital bed after undergoing surgery.

A 25-year-old Australian man was gored in his right thigh July 8 after he taunted a bull by jumping and flapping his arms behind it in the bullring. When the bull turned, he tumbled in the sand and was attacked.

A 23-year-old Frenchman was gored July 9, but less seriously.

Despite the danger many runners, like 55-year-old Ramon Gutierrez who lives in the eastern city of Salamanca, keeps coming back.

"I have come for the past 30 years. It is like a poison that gets into your body. It is all about overcoming your fears," he said after Thursday's race.

Every year 200-300 participants in the run are injured, around three percent seriously. Most are hurt after falling but some are trampled or gored by the bulls despite increased safety measures.

The last death occurred two years ago when a bull gored a 27-year-old Spaniard to death, piercing his neck, heart and lungs with its horns in front of hordes of tourists.

The festival features concerts, folk dancing, religious processions and round-the-clock street drinking in addition to the early morning bull runs and evening bull fights.

The partying officially ends at midnight when thousands gather in the square in front of city hall to hold candles and sing a mournful song lamenting the end of the festivities called "Pobre de Mi" or "Poor Me".

Nobel prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway made the San Fermin famous around the world with "The Sun Also Rises," a novel based on his first visit to Pamplona in 1923.

Festival turnout figures are not yet available but before the start of the event Pamplona officials predicted the city of some 200,000 residents would at least match last year's figure of 1.5 million people and a hotel occupancy rate of over 90 percent.

© 2011 AFP

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