Haiti Carnival turns to tragedy as 20 revellers die when electricity cable strikes float

Reports say cable struck float carrying local hip-hop band

Haiti was confronting more heartache today after at least 20 people were killed and more than 60 injured after an electricity cable struck people taking part in the annual Carnival celebrations.

Disturbing video footage showed a crowded float passing through Port-au-Prince and then striking the high voltage cable. There was a small explosion and flash, and people could be heard screaming over the background noise.

The Associated Press said that a number of people on the float jumped off after the incident in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

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“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.

Hundreds of people thronged the city’s General Hospital, where many of the victims were taken, some carrying victims and others searching for family members brought by ambulance.

Reuters said the cable struck the head of a singer of a hip-hop band, the Barikad Crew. Seven people were reported dead on that float, and others were killed in the ensuing panic. The band's singer, known as Fantom, was expected to survive, reports said.

President Michel Martelly expressed his sympathies to the victims in a message posted on social media. His wife visited victims in the hospital.

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Prime Minister Evans Paul said 16 people were confirmed dead and 78 were injured. His statement conflicted with earlier reports on the number of casualties. Nadia Lochard, a coordinator for the Department of Civil Protection, had said at least 20 people were killed.

The noisy raucous carnival always turns the streets of Haiti’s towns and cities into a noisy party. But this year there had been speculation that the event might be a muted event this year amid a series of anti-government protests and clashes with police.

Protesters have been demonstrating over the soaring cost of fuel and the failure of Mr Martelly to hold national and local elections. His acting prime minster and cabinet have not been formally sworn in and opponents have accused him of ruling by decree.

 

Follow Andrew Buncombe on Twitter: @AndrewBuncombe

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