At least 18 people have been injured after two elephants panicked and ran at a Sri Lankan street pageant.

Footage from the scene showed a group of performers running to get away from the first elephant, which had bolted, prompting the second to charge down the road.

As it ran the animal kicked one person along the side of the street, knocking others away with its trunk. 

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The man riding on top of its back narrowly escaped being trampled after falling off the side of the elephant.

In the ensuing chaos on Saturday night led to 18 people being hospitalised, including children. 

Of those 16 have been discharged, while one is being observed for abdominal damage and another is treated for an injured ear.

The incident took place during the annual religious procession from a 600-year-old Buddhist temple in the sri lankan capital, Kotte, which features a number of dancers and performers.

Elephants adorned in lights and brightly coloured cloaks are a major attraction at Sri Lanka’s Buddhist pageants, with wealthy families sending their elephants - bought as a symbol of prosperity and nobility - to take part.

Some temples also own elephants. The animals hold a particular importance in Buddhism owing to the story of Queen Maya of Sakya, the mother of the Budda, who dreamed she was visited by one as a prophecy of his birth.

Asian elephants are listed as an endangered species by the IUCN red list, which tracks species extinction, with an estimated 2,500 to 4,000 of the animals living in Sri Lanka.

Additional reporting by AP

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