At least seven people have been confirmed dead by the police in Cross River State and authorities of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital after a high tension cable fell on the roof of a popular football viewing centre in the Nyangasang axis of Calabar Municipality.
The incident, which happened around 10pm on Friday during the match between Manchester United and Anderlecht in a return leg of the Europa League quarterfinal match, left at least 18 others critically injured.
The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company confirmed that the high-tension cable was the UNICAL 11KV Feeder.
While authorities faulted an earlier report that over 30 persons lost their lives, eyewitnesses insisted that the number of those who died in the incident were not less than 10.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hafiz Inuwa, said only 18 persons were affected.
Inuwa said that the briefing became necessary following some reports that over 30 persons died in the tragic incident.
“People should stop spreading falsehood in sensitive issues like this. The earlier reports that over 30 persons died is false,” he maintained.
Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee, Dr. Ogbu Ngim, who spoke on behalf of the Chief Medical Director of UCTH, Prof. Thomas Agan, said 18 persons with various degrees of burns were brought to the hospital.
He confirmed seven dead, while the remaining 11 were responding to treatment.
Our correspondent, who visited the viewing centre on Friday, observed that the structure which was constructed with zinc was sited directly under the high-tension cable.
The cable fell on the building after an explosion from a transformer that was located nearby. It was estimated that the viewing centre could contain about 120 persons.
An eyewitness, Jasper Azu, said there was a loud explosion from the transformer while the match was ongoing which led to immediate blackout.
He said, “The power went out and the cable landed on the roof of the viewing centre. Those watching the game were aware of the cable that landed on the roof, but being so eager to continue their match and thinking there was no current in the cable as the power had gone out, urged the owner of the centre to put on his generator.
“After the generator was put on they all went back inside to continue their match and then power was restored by PHEDC and the fire erupted in the building and there was vibration. In the pandemonium that ensued as many made for the exit, several of them got electrocuted. We counted over 10 bodies.”
The state deputy governor, Prof. Ivara Esu, who visited the scene of the incident, commiserated with the victims and said the government would take care of the treatment of those affected by the incident. He said an investigation would be launched into the matter.
Also, Governor Ben Ayade had in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita, ordered the setting up of a commission of inquiry on the viewing centre tragedy.
Ayade, who also commiserated with the victims, described the incident as tragic and horrifying, said the state government will also offer assistance to the victims and their families.