PICTURES

Two injured in northern Spain's bull run festival

PAMPLONA, Spain (AFP) - Thrill-seekers fled six half-tonne fighting bulls and six steers thundering through the cobbled streets of Spain's northern city of Pamplona on Tuesday in a mad dash that sent two men to hospital and left one animal dead.

The two injured men, Spaniards aged 30 and 47, suffered bruises in falls and were taken to hospital for treatment after the third bull run of the annual San Fermin festival, regional health officials said.

A firework was set off to start the race, releasing the bulls and steers from a holding pen to gallop along a winding, 848.6m course to the bull ring, where they were to be slain by matadors.

The bulls from the Valdefresno ranch took just two minutes and 29 seconds to complete the run.

One of the steers, castrated bulls which help keep the herd together, crashed into a bull at the entrance to the bull ring, fell to the ground and was then trampled by the rest of the pack.

The steer rose and turned away from the ring but fell once again and died a few minutes later, surrounded by people taking part in the run.

During the run, hundreds of people, most clad in traditional whites with a red scarf around the neck, fled from the path of the large, sharp-horned bulls.

Spectators watched from balconies and from behind wooden barriers.

"It all happened very fast. I tripped but I managed to land on my hands and did not hurt myself," said Matt Barney, a 26-year-old bartender from Wilmington in the US state of New York.

"I couldn't see anything, just people going by. It was different from what I was expecting." A black bull pulled away from the pack and was the first to charge into the city's bull ring where it was quickly followed by the rest of the beasts.

One young man turned to face the breakaway bull and fell on his back, forcing other runners to scramble to avoid trampling him.

"I ran for the first time and I was really nervous but it was over so quickly that I almost did not notice. The most dangerous part was the people pushing you, I saw people fall because of that," said 18-year-old Luis Arana Ferrado, who is from the nearby Basque city of Bilbao and was staying with a group of friends at a Pamplona campsite for the festival.

The daily bull runs are the highlight of a nine-day mix of partying and thrill-seeking that draws hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.

The festival in this city of 200,000 residents was made famous by Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises".