A high-voltage cable has hit a float during a Carnival parade in Port-au-Prince, killing at least 16 people as thousands watched, officials say.
Another 78 people were injured in Tuesday’s accident, which occurred shortly before 3am local time, throwing Haiti into mourning on the second day of Carnival festivities, ordinarily a joyful high point of the year in this impoverished Caribbean country.
Family members besieged a main hospital complex in Port-au-Prince to find their loved ones as doctors struggled to treat the injured.
Authorities cancelled the third and last day of the Carnival celebrations on Tuesday, and declared three days of mourning.
Prime Minister Evans Paul called on Haitians to pay homage to the dead by dressing in white and marching silently at the Champ de Mars, the parade ground where the accident occurred.
The float – carrying a popular rap group called the Barikad Crew – struck a power line overhead as it made its way through the Champ de Mars.
The group’s star singer, who goes by the name “Fantom,” was struck directly by the cable and is in critical condition, the website Haiti Press Network said.
Many of the dead and injured were dancers and musicians on the float.
Thousands of people were watching the parade as the disaster struck.
“Sharing in the grief of the families affected by this drama, the government has decided to suspend all Carnival festivities across the country,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.
National funerals are due to take place on Saturday.
A doctor contacted by AFP said there were scenes of panic at medical centres where the dead and injured were taken.
About 80 to 100 people, some of them weeping, gathered at the morgue of the Hopital General to see if family members had been brought there.
President Michel Martelly extended his “sincere condolences” to the victims in a message on his Twitter account.