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Giant waves injure spectators at surfing contest

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. - Despite big wave warnings, two walls of water caught dozens of spectators off-guard and knocked them to a rocky beach as they watched a Northern California surfing contest yesterday, leaving some with broken bones but sparing them from being pulled into the ocean.

Thirteen people swept from a seawall had significant injuries, including broken legs and hands, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Scott Jalbert. He reduced the official count from the 15 reported earlier in the day but said others treated at the beach for injuries such as scrapes and bruises were not included in the total. At least three of the injured were taken to hospitals.

Jalbert estimated "a couple hundred" people were on the seawall at the southern tip of Mavericks Beach when the waves struck, upstaging the surfing competition that draws some of the world's top surfers.

The waves were 5 feet to 6 feet high by the time they hit - "small but strong," he said.

"Nobody was swept away into the water. They were just swept onto the beach area pretty hard," Jalbert said. "It's pretty rocky." - AP

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