Hundreds of in-line skaters were racing in the Dutch capital when they collided just moments after the race began in the afternoon. Four thousand skaters began the race through the IJ tunnel.
The accident was caused by a single skater falling and tripping up those around him. The pile-up grew as more skaters slammed into those on the ground. Those most seriously injured suffered broken arms and legs as well as cuts and abrasions, and were taken to local hospitals. Witnesses described a scene of panic in the tunnel as screaming skaters pushed and shoved in frantic efforts to get out.
The skating race was one of several road events held in the heart of Amsterdam and dozens of other Dutch cities. The vehicle ban was organised by environmentalists trying to call attention to rising traffic and pollution.
Opinion polls show that 60 per cent of Dutch people want one or more car-free Sundays every year. Yesterday saw the first non-car Sunday across Holland since the 1973 oil crisis. Amsterdam already has one essentially car-free day every year - the celebration of the queens' birthdays on 30 April, when the inner city bans car drivers for most of the day.