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 11 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.”
As shared on its twitter page :
“FIFA is deeply saddened by the deaths of several football fans in Calabar and offer our deepest condolences to family and friends of the victims”
The English Premier League giants were quick to acknowledge the death of these unlucky fans in a tweet on Friday.
“Our thoughts go out to the United fans, their friends and families affected by the tragedy in Calabar, Nigeria, yesterday,” the club wrote.