Blood, fire and controversy as bull-running celebrations heat up

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THE running of the bulls celebrations in Pamplona are officially in full swing, now that several brutal gorings and explosive displays of fireworks have imbued the event with its characteristic violence, flamboyance, and controversy. 

On Thursday night (July 7), a metal model of a bull was carried through the streets with fireworks sticking out of its back. Sparks showered off in all directions while eager revellers dashed away as the flaming effigy wound its way through the town streets. 

Meanwhile, after a fairly low-key run on Thursday, the most recent one on the morning of Friday (June 8) saw six people gored by the rampaging beasts. Initial reports indicated that there had been five gorings, but the Red Cross later updated the total to six on its Twitter account, while also noting that eight others had been taken to hospitals for unspecified injuries.

Witnesses reported that at one point it looked like a bull was about to charge directly at two runners before it was mercifully distracted by another bull and went off in another direction. 

Since the festival began in 1924, 15 people have died from being gored by bulls.  

Meanwhile, sexual assault allegations have cast a pall over the early days of the event, 

The newspaper Diario de Navarra has reported that a woman was going into a building in the centre of the city in the early hours of Thursday morning (July 7) when she was attacked and sexually assaulted by a group of men.

She was taken to a hospital nearby while the police searched for the suspects, and five men are currently being held for their presumed connection with the incident.

Pamplona has had a particular emphasis this year on the prevention of sex-related crimes at the San Fermin bull-running celebrations. A campaign has been undertaken to raise awareness and let people know about the kinds of resources that they have available if they find themselves in dangerous or distressing situations.

Many critics of the bull-running fiestas have expressed concern over how the event is typically presented in the media, with images of women flashing their breasts, often while large groups of men paw away at them.

The bull-running festivities kicked off on Wednesday (July 6) and will go on until next Thursday (July 14). 

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