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Haiti Carnival Tragedy Prompts New Security Measures

  • Reuters

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

The Haitian government is exploring measures to prevent future incidents involving overhead high voltage power lines, the Minister of Communications, Rotchild Francois Jr. announced on Wednesday.

The development followed a revision of the death toll from Monday's electrocution, which now stands at 18. Most of the dead, 15 men and 3 women, died during a stampede after one of the floats carrying the popular band Barikad Crew hit an overhead electric cable causing a sudden large flash that caused a crowd of spectators to panic. The death toll was previously 16, with more than 70 people were injured.

According to the minister, an inter-agency commission is being set up to report on the carnival tragedy. He said the government would inspect every high tension cables for safety for nearby homes and traffic, as well as put together a plan to modernize the state electricity company, EDH. Improvements could include the possible installation of underground lines on the streets where carnival is held every year.

The minister said that in the future, all major outdoor public events will be subject to a public safety inspection.

The incident in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, prompted the government to cancel the last day of carnival - the raucous celebrations preceding the start of Lent - and to declare three days of national mourning. A statement from the minister of communications' office said official funerals would be held for the victims on Saturday.

Haiti's annual three-day street parade coincides with other Mardi Gras celebrations around the world and attracts large nighttime crowds eager to witness competing bands atop highly decorated floats.

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