A Hindu religious festival in Sri Lanka concluded in turmoil when an elephant in the procession became agitated, resulting in 13 people being injured as they scrambled to safety, according to police reports on Sunday.

Social media videos depicted a handler attempting to restrain the distressed elephant by pulling its tail, while panicked onlookers along the route desperately sought refuge. The footage also captured a procession of elephants adorned from head to toe in red, blue, and gold robes, parading before a sizable audience as cymbals clashed.

Thirteen individuals were transported to Kataragama Hospital, located 280 km south of Colombo, where they received treatment for minor injuries, a police spokesperson confirmed. The following day, a representative from the state-run Kataragama Hospital announced that all the injured had been released.

Although elephants hold sacred status in Sri Lanka, enforcement of animal cruelty laws is infrequent. Animal rights organizations have expressed concern over the extensive use of elephants in temple rituals. There have been previous incidents where elephants have become uncontrollable during events featuring loud music and fireworks.

In August 2023, a crowd of pilgrims in Kandy, central Sri Lanka, leaped into a lake to evade five agitated young elephants, leading to several injuries and one woman being hospitalized. In 2019, a similar incident at a temple festival in Colombo left at least 17 people injured when elephants went wild. Official data indicates that Sri Lanka is home to approximately 200 domesticated elephants and a wild population of around 7,500.