Heartache for Haiti: Carnival called off, state funeral for power cable mishap victims

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What was meant as a revelry full of fun, festivities and celebrations, turned into a tragedy when a hip-hop band singer on a float touched an overhead power cable, killing 16 and injuring 78.

The incident occurred on early Tuesday morning during the Carnival when someone on the music band float reportedly tried to push the electricity cable up for the float to fit under, apparently thinking that the cable was not working. However the band singer got a shock and people on the float fell over, triggering a stampede among bystanders.

16 have been killed and 78 were injured in the Carnival, whose remaining events have been cancelled by the authorities.

Prime Minister Evans Paul declared three days of mourning and state funeral for the mishap victims.

The singer who was hit by the power cable, a man known by the stage name Fantom, was expected to survive, according to a doctor who spoke to radio station Zenith-FM. The information could not be verified immediately.

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, one of 16 in the 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 who was near the float at the time.

A dazed Carlhenry Belan, who injured his foot in the stampede, said the crowd seemed to surge all at once. “I saw the spark and I saw people running so I did too,” he said while being treated at the General Hospital.

Video showed Haitian ambulance crews racing through the crowds in the pre-dawn darkness with victims on stretchers. Hundreds of people crowded around the hospital, carrying victims or looking for information about family and friends amid a chaotic scene. Some men and women wailed as people were declared dead and the hospital’s morgue soon overflowed.

Communications Minister Rothchild Francis said the government was working to assist victims.