Thu, Feb 19, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Haiti in mourning after 16 killed in carnival accident

TWIN TRAGEDIES:Carnival festivities in Haiti and Brazil were marred early on Tuesday after parade floats struck power lines. The Port-au-Prince accident triggered a panic

AFP, PORT-AU-PRINCE

Haitian mourners on Tuesday walk down a street in Port-au-Prince during a government-sponsored march in memory of the people who died during a carnival accident earlier in the day.

Photo: AFP

Haiti was plunged into mourning yesterday and carnival festivities were canceled after at least 16 people died when a high-voltage cable hit a parade float in the capital, Port-au-Prince, before dawn on Tuesday.

Another 78 people were injured in the accident, which occurred shortly before 3am as thousands watched, marring what is normally a joyful high point of the year in the Caribbean country.

Authorities cancelled the third and last day of the carnival celebrations and declared three days of mourning.

Several thousand people, including Haitian President Michel Martelly and Cabinet head Evans Paul, participated in a silent march along the carnival route to pay homage to the victims later on Tuesday. Musicians silenced their instruments and dancers walked quietly — a stark contrast to the revelry of the previous day.

Along the Champ de Mars, the parade ground not far from the presidential palace where the accident took place, the bleachers — normally full of festive crowds — stood quiet.

“What happened is a tragedy,” Paul said.

The float — carrying a popular rap group called the Barikad Crew — struck a power line overhead as it made its way through the Champ de Mars, electrocuting the dancers and musicians riding on it.

The group’s star singer, who goes by the name “Fantom,” was struck directly by the fallen cable and was in hospital, the Web site Haiti Press Network said.

Some of the injured were hurt in the ensuing crush of revelers who panicked upon seeing the accident.

Family members besieged a main hospital complex in the capital to find their loved ones as doctors struggled to treat those injured by the huge electrical shock. Others went to identify the dead.

Paul had called on Haitians to pay homage to the dead by marching silently at the Champ de Mars.

“Sharing in the grief of the families affected by this drama, the government has decided to suspend all carnival festivities across the country,” his office said in a statement.

National funerals have been scheduled for Saturday.

Martelly extended his “sincere condolences” to the victims in a message on his Twitter account.

Haitian Minister of Communications Rotchild Francois said the government “stands ready to assist everyone affected by this tragedy.”

“The government has made all the arrangements to organize national funerals for the victims of the accident,” he said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, three Brazilian revelers were electrocuted early on Tuesday while standing atop a carnival float that hit a power line, officials said.

In an e-mailed statement, the Light power company confirmed the deaths occurred during a carnival celebration in Nova Iguacu, a city of 800,000 people on the northern outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

Firefighters said at least one other person was taken to a hospital and three others were aided on the scene. None appear to have life-threatening injuries.

Additional reporting by AP

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