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Wednesday 25 April 2018

20 die after Carnival float accident sets off stampede

A woman is being helped by others after her family member was killed when a carnival float hit power lines in Port-au-Prince (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)
A woman is being helped by others after her family member was killed when a carnival float hit power lines in Port-au-Prince (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares)

Evans Sanon

At least 20 people were killed early yesterday in the Haitian capital after a man on top of a musical group's Carnival float was electrocuted, setting off a panic in which dozens of people were trampled, witnesses and officials said.

The accident occurred as thousands of people filled the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince for the raucous annual celebration. Video from the scene shows sparks coursing from the wire after a singer from the Haitian hip-hop group Barikad Crew was touched by an overhead power line as the float passed beneath it. The wire appeared to have electrocuted several others as well.

There were conflicting reports on the number of casualties. Nadia Lochard, a co-ordinator for the Department of Civil Protection, said at least 20 people were killed and 46 were injured. Radio station Zenith-FM quoted a doctor as saying that the singer, known by the stage name Fantom, was expected to survive.

Dr Joel Desire, a doctor at General Hospital, said most of those killed appeared to have been trampled to death as the crowd surged away from the Carnival float.

The Barikad Crew float was one of 16 in the downtown Carnival parade. Witnesses said panic ensued when people jumped off the float to avoid being electrocuted.

"I saw the wire falling and sparks and I started running for my life," said Natacha Saint Fleur, a 22-year-old who was near the float at the time.

Video from the scene shows Haitian ambulance crews racing through the crowds with victims on stretchers. Hundreds of people thronged the General Hospital, where many of the victims were taken.

Three days of mourning were declared, beginning today, with flags to be flown at half-mast.

Communications minister Rothchild Francis said the government was working to assist victims. First lady Sophia Martelly visited some of the injured at the General Hospital.

It is a common practice in Haiti and elsewhere to have someone positioned atop a parade float to move low-hanging power lines.

In Brazil, officials said three people were killed yesterday when they were electrocuted while standing atop a Carnival float that hit a power line.

Irish Independent

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