PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – At least 20 people were killed during a Carnival parade in Haiti’s capital early Tuesday when a music group’s float hit a low-hanging power line, causing them to be electrocuted, officials said.
The accident occurred as thousands of people filled the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince for the raucous annual celebration. People at the scene said someone on the float touched an overhead power line with a pole or stick as the float passed underneath it.
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.
The float, one of 16 in the downtown Carnival parade, was sponsored by the Haitian hip-hop group Barikad Crew. Some of the victims were instantly electrocuted in a flash of sparks, according to witnesses. Others managed to jump off, causing panic in the crowd.
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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 General Hospital, where many of the victims were taken, some carrying victims and others searching for family members brought by ambulance.
Haitian officials were expected to announce later Tuesday whether they would cancel a second day of Carnival events. Communications Minister Rothchild Francis said the government was working to assist victims.
It is a common practice in Haiti and elsewhere to have someone at the top of a parade float who moves low-hanging power lines.
In Brazil, officials said three people were killed when they were electrocuted while standing atop a Carnival float that hit a power line early Tuesday on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.