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Haiti Mourns Carnival Accident Victims

  • VOA News

Haiti's new Prime Minister Evans Paul, left center, Haiti's President Michel Martelly, center, and first lady Sophia Martelly, lead a vigil at the site of a high-voltage wires' accident that left at least 16 people dead, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 17,

Haiti's new Prime Minister Evans Paul, left center, Haiti's President Michel Martelly, center, and first lady Sophia Martelly, lead a vigil at the site of a high-voltage wires' accident that left at least 16 people dead, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 17,

Thousands of people, led by Haitian President Michel Martelly, held a candelight vigil Tuesday night in honor of the victims of a carnival float accident.

Officials canceled the last day of the annual carnival festivities Tuesday and announced three days of mourning, to begin Wednesday, out of respect for the 16 people who died and 78 who were injured after popular hip-hop band Barikad Crew's float hit a power line in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The incident set off a stampede by bystanders.

The Haitian Press Network reported that the group's singer, who goes by the name "Fantom," was struck by the falling power line and remains hospitalized.

Families and friends gather around a memorial at the site of a high-voltage wire accident that left at least 16 people dead, during a vigil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 17, 2015.

Families and friends gather around a memorial at the site of a high-voltage wire accident that left at least 16 people dead, during a vigil in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 17, 2015.

The president and his wife, first lady Sophia Martelly, were joined by Prime Minister Evans Paul in a moment of silence at the site of the tragedy.

A state funeral and vigil are planned for the victims Saturday. Flags are being flown at half-staff on all public buildings, officials said.

About 100 people crowded the General Hospital morgue Tuesday, worried whether their family members had been brought there The Associated Press reported.

Communications Minister Rotchild Francois Jr. told reporters the government "stands ready to assist anyone affected by this tragedy."

The United States expressed deep sadness about the incident in a statement. "The accident is all the more saddening coming during Haiti's national festivities for carnival," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "During this difficult time our thoughts and prayers are with the people and government of Haiti."

United Nations Representative Sandra Honore also extended "deepest condolences" to the victims and their families.

Haiti's three-day carnival festivities - the largest in the Caribbean featuring dancing and singing - began Sunday under the theme "Nou Tout Se Ayiti" (We are all Haiti).

The high-spirited annual street parade coincides with other Mardi Gras carnivals around the world and attracts large nighttime crowds eager to witness competing bands atop highly decorated floats.

Some information for this report came from AP and AFP.

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