HomeWorld NewsColombian bullfight collapses, killing and injuring

Colombian bullfight collapses, killing and injuring

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Several levels of crowded stands in an improvised arena have collapsed during a bullfight in central Colombia on Sunday, leaving four deaths and hundreds injured – numbers that could rise in the hours to come – as terrified onlookers were trapped in the rubble.

The tragedy took place in El Espinal, a small town located about 95 miles southwest of Bogotá.

Footage of the collapse quickly went viral on social media. It showed dozens of people teasing and playing with an injured bull during a popular event known as corraleja. Suddenly, three levels of stands gave way, imprisoning hundreds of men, women and children below. As people screamed, some jumped out of their seats and rushed to help, trying to lift wood and other debris aside.

Hector Ortiz, 64, couldn’t believe the scene. A woman next to him shouted “This balcony is about to collapse!” and he watched as eight sections began to crumble one after another, like dominoes.

“After the first balcony collapsed, he fired the next one, and so on, and so on,” Ortiz told The Washington Post. “It was the gate the bulls go through that stopped the collapse. Otherwise we would be talking about a much bigger tragedy.

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Every year the town hall and private parties in El Espinal organize events to celebrate the feast of Saint Peter on June 29th. The bullrings are erected for a spectacle born on the Caribbean coast when Colombia was a Spanish colony. Unlike traditional Spanish bullfighting, bulls are not usually killed in a corraleja, and spectators are invited to run with the animal still in the ring.

In towns like El Espinal, the event has evolved into a popular spectacle.

Its arenas were built with gadua bamboo and the multiple levels were filled with spectators. “A gadua bamboo structure is quite unstable,” said Luis Fernando Velez, head of the regional civil protection agency. “The organizers should have foreseen that this could happen.”

Velez said 50 civil defense volunteers were working to transfer the most seriously injured of the 322 injured spectators from the arenas to the city’s only hospital. The fire brigade and the police also intervened. The local health system has sent a “red alert” to the community.

On Twitter, Colombian President Iván Duque expressed concern for the victims and called for a swift investigation.

A 14-month-old baby was among the dead. More than two dozen children were injured and others were missing, having been next to their parents in the bullring when the structure caved in, Velez said. The eight stands involved housed about 800 people, according to Mayor Juan Carlos Tamayo Salas.

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The incident recalled a similar event corralejas disaster in the Caribbean town of Sincelejo. Over 500 people died and over 2,000 were injured in 1980 when the makeshift stands collapsed.

“This has happened before in Sincelejo,” tweeted President-elect Gustavo Petro, who will take office in August. “I ask local authorities to refrain from allowing more shows with the death of people or animals.”

Petro sparked outrage as mayor of Bogotá when he banned bullfighting. Sunday, he seemed ready to lead the same fight at the national level.

Witnessing the disaster on Sunday, Ortiz said: “I think it’s the end for the corralejas in El Espinal.

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