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Tuesday, 6 November 2007, 12:59 GMT
Injuries at fire barrel festival


Thirty-six people were treated for minor burns and injuries in a traditional Devon event where flaming barrels are carried on people's backs.

The 400-year-old Ottery St Mary Tar Barrels event on Monday night attracted more than 3,000 people.

Three people had to be treated in hospital - one suffering from burns and the others with broken ankles.

Three more were hurt when the crowd surged to avoid a rolling barrel and forced a brick wall to collapse.

Pagan ritual

Police said they dealt with a number of minor disturbances in the town centre and there was one allegation of assault.

The 17th Century tradition is thought to originate from a pagan ritual of exorcising evil spirits from the town.

A total of 17 barrels are soaked in tar and lit before being carried in turn.

The barrels get passed from man to man as they make their way to the River Otter. The barrels are then used to make up one of the biggest bonfires in the region.

The carnival committee said it was aware the brick wall outside a property had collapsed and had made contact with the owners.

One of the organisers, Andy Wade, said: "We didn't have a problem with anything."

The event had appeared to be under threat after its insurer pulled out but, after a nationwide appeal, the organisers obtained £5m public liability insurance from another company to cover the event.

It raises thousands of pounds for charity and attracts people from around the world.