A video has been released showing young residents in El Salvador throwing fireballs at one another as part of an annual religious celebration. Locals in the town of Nejapa, 18 miles north of capital San Salvador, gathered on the streets to hurl flaming, petrol-soaked rags at one another. The festivities, which have been going on for more than a decade, consist of opposing groups launching palm-sized fireballs at each other.

The celebrations form part of the annual Las Bolas de Fuego (Fireballs) festival, which is held in honour of a huge volcanic eruption in 1922 that forced all of the residents to abandon the town. According to folklore, the hot lava that flowed from the volcano took the form of the local saint, Jeronimo, fighting the devil with balls of fire. Since then, local churches and their worshippers have embraced the tradition.

El Salvador fireball festival,
The Las Bolas de Fuego festival takes place every year in Napaja, El Salvador Reuters

Ana Alcira, one of the fireball throwers, explained why 93 years since the volcano erupted the event should still be celebrated. "It's a story we should never forget, because it is when the volcano erupted. That is how Saint Jeronimo came to Nejapa

"He was being carried and where the church was located, that is where the men that were carrying him, fell asleep. After they fell asleep, they awoke and the saint was no longer where they had left him and they found him exactly where the church is located," she said.

Hundreds of people travel to Nepaja to see the festival every year. Authorities fear the fireball fight might one day get out of hand because there are no rules. But despite the apparent dangers, few serious injuries have been reported.