A crowded street pageant in Sri Lanka descended into chaos Sunday when two elephants broke free, sending festivalgoers scrambling for cover as the animals wildly stomped through the crowd, injuring at least 17 people, officials said.
Video from a local television station showed one of the elephants in the procession suddenly bolting from a group of people in the town of Kotte, located near Colombo.
Terrified onlookers immediately scattered, with some running into an elephant at the front of the procession, which also became violent and took off running, slamming into people in the crowd.
A man riding on the elephant fell off and narrowly escaped being trampled himself.
According to local media reports, at least 17 people were injured and treated in two hospitals. Officials told the Associated Press on Monday that most of them had already been discharged.
Of those remaining, one is being observed for possible abdominal damage and another is being treated for an injured ear, according to health officials.
The annual street pageant, or Perahera, starts at a 600-year-old Buddhist temple and features dancers and a parade of elaborately decorated elephants through the streets of Kotte, according to Reuters.
Ornately decorated elephants are a major attraction in Sri Lankan Buddhist pageants. Wealthy families own elephants as a symbol of their prosperity, pride and nobility, and they typically send them to participate in pageants around the country.
Some Buddhist temples also own elephants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.