AP PHOTOS: Thousands join Hong Kong bun-snatching festival

HONG KONG — Thousands of people flocked to an outlying island in Hong Kong on Tuesday to celebrate a local bun festival despite recording-breaking heat.

A parade featured children dressed as deities floated on poles. Later, contestants in a bun-scrambling competition raced up a 14-meter (46-foot) bamboo tower to snatch as many plastic buns as possible. Buns higher up the pole are worth more points.

One of Hong Kong's oldest and most colorful festivals started about a century ago after a deadly plague devastated the outlying island of Cheung Chau. Residents built an altar in front of the Pak Tai temple imploring the deities for help and used white steamed buns as offerings to drive away the evil spirits, according to tradition.

The bun-snatching contest was canceled after a bun tower collapsed in 1978, injuring 100 people.

The tradition was revived in 2005 as part of an annual "bun festival." As added safety measures this year, workers built a sturdier tower and bun snatchers received mountaineering training.

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