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Feb 17, 2015 11:36 AM

Float accident at Haiti Carnival parade kills at least 20

The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) At least 20 people were killed early Tuesday 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 coordinator 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.

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," the 25-year-old said as he was being treated at the General Hospital, where many victims were taken.

Video from the scene shows 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.

Haitian officials were expected to announce later whether they would cancel Tuesday's third and final day of Carnival events. Communications Minister Rothchild Francis said the government was working to assist victims. First lady Sophia Martelly visited some of the injured but left the hospital without speaking to reporters.

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 early Tuesday when they were electrocuted while standing atop a Carnival float that hit a power line on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.


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