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San Fermin bulls festival starts

Thousands of revellers have doused each other with wine to celebrate the start of the famed San Fermin running of the bulls festival in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona.

The festival started with the traditional launching of a fireworks rocket - known as the Chupinazo - from the town hall balcony as the heaving crowd packing the square below began jumping and screaming "Viva San Fermin".

The Chupinazo takes place a day before the first of eight 8am bull runs in which daredevils race ahead of hulking fighting bulls through winding streets to the city's bullring.

The nine-day street partying fiesta was immortalised in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.

Bull runs, or encierros as they are called in Spanish, are a traditional part of summer festivals across Spain. Dozens are injured each year in the runs, most of them in falls.

Two men have died being gored by bulls in Spanish festivals in recent weeks - one on Saturday in the eastern town of Grao de Castellon and another on June 24 in the south-western town of Coria.

Five Spaniards, two Australians and one American were gored in last year's festival in Pamplona. In all, 15 people have died from gorings in San Fermin since record-keeping began in 1924.

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