Scenes of panic, injured people, misplaced belongings and losses to local businesses were the outcome of a flash mob that ran through the streets of the Catalan resort town of Platja d’Aro on Tuesday night.
The public event, which was organized by German tourists pretending to be chasing a celebrity, quickly derived into a stampede as people mistook it for a terrorist attack and started running in all directions.
Regional police deployed throughout Catalonia in the wake of the truck attack in the French city of Nice were quickly sent to the site. Spain is on a level 4 for threat of a terrorist attack, just one below the top level reserved for imminent attacks.
When one person starts running, the others run too, and that’s very hard to stop
Five German women ages 20 through 25, who were working as camp counselors for a group of teenagers, were arrested on Tuesday and charged with disturbing the peace. All five were released on Wednesday but face fines and the possibility of a three-month-to-one-year jail sentence. Local business owners, some of whom sustained significant financial losses, are considering filing complaints to seek damages.
The flash mob, which included 200 people by some reports, began shortly before 10pm, when participants started running through the streets holding selfie sticks and screaming in German. Many of them also ran in and out of establishments, which is what triggered the panic according to the police.
“When one person starts running, the others run too, and that’s very hard to stop,” said municipal authorities. The local police force’s telephone lines were collapsed by callers, some of whom asserted that they had heard gunshots. The emergency number 112 received over 100 calls. Several people were taken to hospital after suffering anxiety attacks. A young woman required medical assistance after fainting outside an ice cream parlor.
English version by Susana Urra.