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Haiti to implement safety measures after Carnival tragedy

Haiti's President Michel Martelly (C) is flanked by Haiti's Prime Minister, Evans Paul (L), and Martelly's wife Sophia, as they pay their respects to the victims of a carnival float that hit power lines, at the site of the accident in Port-au-Prince, February 17, 2015. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - The Haitian government raised the death toll from Tuesday’s electrocution of a Carnival float to 18 and said it was exploring measures to prevent future incidents involving overhead high voltage power lines, the Minister of Communications announced on Wednesday.

Most of the dead, 15 men and 3 women, died during a stampede after one of the floats carrying a popular band 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.

An inter-agency commission is being set up to report on the carnival tragedy, said the minister, Rotchild François Junior. He added that the government will inspect every high tension cable for safety for nearby homes and traffic, as well as put together a plan to modernize the state electricity company, EDH, including possible installation of underground lines in the streets where Carnival is held every year.

In the future all major outdoor public events will be subject to a public safety inspection, he added.

The incident in Haiti’s capital 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.

Haiti’s three-day annual 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.

Writing by David Adams; Editing by Bernard Orr