Saturday morning when I landed in Haiti for my very first Kanaval experience, I posted pictures and videos on my instagram page to share the experience with all my fellow Haitian Americans who couldn’t make it to Haiti for the annual event. As I drove into Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince to meet with Haitian television host and Plezikanaval owner Carel Pedre, everything from the traffic to the restaurants were packed as locals and tourist prepare for a beautiful Valentines night with their loved ones and prepare for three nights of Kanaval festivities.
Like any other Carnival spelled Kanaval in creole, safety is always a concern, but as I pulled up to the city of Champ des Mars on Sunday night to make my way to Carel’s Plezikanaval stand which was covering all the ins and outs of the the three day event, hundreds of armed police officers, security and emergency rescue teams standing throughout the ares definitely made me feel secure and ready to partake in all the excitement of Kanaval.
Walking through the crowd to the stand was nothing I’ve ever experienced, this was definitely a side of Haiti I had never seen before. It was 8pm and the lights were bright, the music was loud and there were hundreds of people on the ground.
Different news outlets covering the event were stationed throughout Champ des mars while attendees who traveled from all over the world and throughout the country danced, chanted songs and waited on the floats to start coming down the 2-3 mile stretch of Champ Des Mars.
There were hundred of stands from local and international companies, sponsors and officials all wearing designated bright and colorful t-shirts promoting their company, non-profit or cause. The Plezikanaval stand was located right next to President Michel Martelly’s stand. Yes, I was very excited to be within a few feet of the president.
Its 9pm, the first float is making its way through the crowd with a line up of 16 more bands to go and the crowd is going crazy. By now it look like there’s thousands of people on the ground, every stand is packed and people are dancing around the trucks and slowly moving out the way as the float make its way through the congested street.
The first night was amazing! I wasn’t raised listening to Haitian music so this was a new experience for me, as the bands drove by I couldn’t help but to dance, jump, shout and scream along with the crowd. As I scanned through the crowd one of the most surprising things to me was the fact that there were that many people in one place and people weren’t fighting or being trampled, attendees appeared to just wanted to have fun and enjoy their favorite bands. As I snapped pictures and live videos to posted on my social networks for my friends and fans of the site, my comments were flooded with people wishing they would have traveled to Kanaval or exited about making the trip the following year.
At the top of Tuesday night the scene was pretty much the same as the night before, with a line up of 16 bands, the first band out was T-mickey and Olivier float which drove through the crowd with President Martelly dancing in front of his son’s float with high security at his side.
Nine bands in, Barikad Crew ‘s float stopped right before mine and saluted the president, stopped their music and paid tribute to Haiti by having a singer sing Haiti’s national anthem ” La Dessalinienne.”
Minutes after riding pass our stand, Barikad’s music came to a stop and we watched as people starting screaming, running pass as security and the police officers cleared the street making their way towards the band’s float.
For the first few minutes, most attendees had no idea what was going on, the emergency rescue team started closing off the street by holding hands and using their bodies as barricades and informed the next float which was the band Kreyo La to announce there was an emergency up ahead and ask the other floats to stop moving, clear the way and stop their music.
Video below of Barikad Crew’s Float minutes before the accident.
[Haitian Times] At least 16 people were killed early Tuesday in the Haitian capital after a man on top of a musical group’s Carnival float was shocked by high-voltage wires above the street, setting off a panic in which dozens of people were trampled, 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 showed sparks coursing from the wire after a singer from the Haitian hip-hop group Barikad Crew was jolted by the overhead power line as the float passed beneath it. The cable appeared to have shocked several others as well.
Prime Minister Evans Paul said 16 people were confirmed dead and 78 were injured. His statement conflicted with earlier reports on the number of casualties. Nadia Lochard, a coordinator for the Department of Civil Protection, had said at least 20 people were killed.
Paul declared three official days of mourning for the impoverished Caribbean country. Haitian officials canceled Tuesday’s third and final day of Carnival events and announced a state funeral and vigil on Saturday for the victims.
The singer who was hit by the power cable, a man known by the stage name Fantom, was expected to survive, according to a doctor who spoke to radio station Zenith-FM. The information could not be verified immediately.
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, one of 16 in the downtown parade. – Continue Reading
As attendees started flagging the upcoming floats about the emergency, the police immediately went into action securing an open space for the emergency vehicles to come down, people started picking up and carrying victims to the designated emergency area and helped them into ambulances, people in the stands reminded in place and we all watched in shock hoping no one was seriously injured. With so many people on the ground the immediacy of the rescue team, the officials and ambulance was as organized as possible given there were thousands of people trying to get out the way.
The police officials and rescue team did a phenomenal job trying to prevent more people from being hurt, but these form of progress are the things that goes unnoticed when people talk about Haiti. Accidents happen at large events all the time and being able to contain the area and prevent more people and tourist form getting hurt should be acknowledged and I applaud them for doing an amazing job.
Pictures and video immediately following the accident of the rescue team getting all the injured people to the emergency area and the ambulance as security and police officers try to contain the crowd .
Waking up to the news of 16-20 deaths on Tuesday morning was heart wrenching. Petion-ville was definitely calm and somber as people gathered around their radio and televisions in disbelief. As we wait for the final word from the president, I was proud to hear the third day had been cancelled and the country was all in agreement that we should come together to mourn the lost of our family and friends.
Authorities cancelled the third and last day of the carnival celebrations on Tuesday and declared three days of mourning.Several thousand people including President Michel Martelly and cabinet chief Evans Paul participated in a silent march along the carnival route to pay hommage to the victims.Musicians silenced their instruments and dancers walked quietly — a stark contrast to the revelry of the previous day. Along the Champ de Mars, the parade ground not far from the presidential palace where the accident took place, the bleachers — normally full of festive crowds — stood quiet.
“Sharing in the grief of the families affected by this drama, the government has decided to suspend all carnival festivities across the country,” his office said in a statement.The period of national mourning will formally begin Wednesday, with flags to be flown at half-mast on all public buildings.National funerals were to take place on Saturday. – Read More
While many people are placing blame and pointing fingers, it was a tragic accident and as a tourist seeing everything first hand, I am proud of the quick response and harmony display by everyone. The fact that same thousands of people came together in solidarity to mourn the victims the same as they had come the two previous nights to party is what Haiti is build on, L’union fait la force (Unity Makes Strength or Strength Through Unity).
Yes Haiti has a long way to go, regulatory procedures should be in place and Haiti as a country need to step up in all material aspects like hospitals, roads and emergency routes but coming from someone who was there to experience the excitement and the tragedy, I believe this unfortunate event will compel the country officials to spend more time and money looking into better preparing for emergency.
Accidents happen at large events like this all the time, as the news of Haiti’s Kanaval hit the internet and social networks, meanwhile in the southeastern Brazilian city of Nova Iguacu, three men were killed in eerily similar circumstances when their carnival float ran into a power line.
Meanwhile, officials in Brazil said at least three people had been electrocuted while standing atop a Carnival float that hit a power line outside Rio de Janeiro. The Light power company says the float hit one of its lines in a hardscrabble city on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. The company confirms three people died in the accident. Firefighters say at least one other person was taken to a hospital and three others were aided on the scene. None appear to have life-threatening injuries. The accident happened early on Tuesday when a float carrying speakers for a street party brushed against the power line in the city of Nova Iguacu. – Source
This accident shouldn’t define who we are as a people, this accident should not be a determining factor in whether or not the country is safe. Celebrities like Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and Angela Simmons are all in Haiti this week enjoying the luxuries of the island.