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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 February, 2005, 13:26 GMT
Lahore's kite festival kicks off
One of the kites being prepared before the start of the Basant festival
The kite-flying can get very competitive during Basant
Thousands of people took to the rooftops in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Saturday night for the traditional kite flying festival.

More than one million people were expected to attend the Basant festival, which marks the start of spring, including local and Indian celebrities.

Rooftops are in high demand - rentals for the night have been reported at upwards of $4,500.

The festivities were continuing through until late Sunday night.

Organisers worked all week to light up an estimated 12,000 rooftops.

Residents said revellers had crowded into public parks, shopping centres and hotels and on to the rooftops of all big buildings, the AFP news agency reported.

The festival draws people from as far away as the US and Australia.

Kite dangers

Basant was brought forward by a fortnight this year due to the onset of Moharram, a month of mourning for Shia Muslims.

It meant the festival went ahead under overcast skies and in chilly winds.

There had been fears the festivities would be marred by violence since 5 February is officially observed in Pakistan as a day of solidarity with those fighting Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kite festivities
The festival is also marked with concerts and parties
But that did not stop hundreds of Indians from reaching Lahore, including some of their top film stars.

"We love our guests and Lahore is a very safe city," the city's mayor, Mian Amer Mahmood told the BBC News website.

Lahoris, say local journalists, are more worried at the celebratory gunshots that continue through the night as rivals down each other's kites. The other major danger comes from the razor-sharp string used to fly the kites with.

The string is known to have injured, even killed, motorcyclists unlucky enough to catch it across their throats. Last year, nine people died and dozens were injured either by the strings or by stray bullets.

Kite-flying remained banned through much of the period following Basant last year.




SEE ALSO:
Kite deaths mar Pakistan festival
15 Feb 04 |  South Asia
Kite deaths spark ban in Lahore
25 Jun 03 |  South Asia
Lahore kite festival takes off
11 Feb 03 |  South Asia
India celebrates kite flying
14 Jan 03 |  South Asia


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