CALABAR VIEWING CENTRE TRAGEDY : How we escaped death – Survivors

from JUDEX OKORO, Calabar

But for the love of the round leather game, Mr. Ete James would probably still be alive today. Perhaps, the worst that would have happened to him was suffer the pains of a brief illness and leap out of his sick bed after a day or two.

But the curiosity and excitement of watching how the televised football match between Manchester United and FC Anderlecht would be decided prompted the ailing soccer fan to leave his house and dash to the nearby popular make-shift viewing centre on Nsak Effiom Street in Nyakassang community in Calabar, Cross River State, especially on hearing that his favourite team had scored.

Sadly, he did not make it back. He was among the seven persons electrocuted, when a high tension cable cut from an electric pole and fell on the recreational joint on Thursday after one of the transformers in the area exploded.

Another 20 people were reportedly injured in the tragedy in which 30 people were initially said to have died.

Bereaved son to the deceased, Akaniyene Edem James, said: “My father was not feeling very well, but when he heard that Manchester United had scored, he decided to go and watch the game and then went and met his untimely death.”

Akaniyene added: “The family is very devastated and we don’t even know where to start from. It’s only God that will help us.”

The fatal explosion, which occurred about 10:00pm Thursday night, was said to have ignited a fire in which surviving victims suffered varying degrees of burns.

An eye-witness, Ndabo Enobong Dominic, said when the transformer exploded, Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHEDC, cut off power supply to the area, causing the soccer buffs, numbering about 60, to tell the operator to put on his generating set. He did and they resumed enjoying the match. However, when the PHEDC later restored power, there was a surge causing sparks that resulted in the fire which engulfed and destroyed the make-shift structure reportedly made of zinc.

“They have been having issues with electricity for some time in the community, as about three poles had fallen. On that fateful day, PHEDC took light when the people were busy watching the match, which started at 7:45pm. When there was a spark from the transformer that serves the community, one of the cables from the high tension pole on top of the building fell on the viewing centre, which was made of zinc.

“But determined to watch the match, the football fans insisted that the operator of the centre must put on his generating set, which he did. A few minutes after, PHEDC brought light again and because of the power surge the whole building was red-hot with red current.

“In an attempt to escape, most of people inside the centre started rushing out and in the process some were electrocuted while some were injured,” Dominic said.

One of those confirmed dead was a pastor of the Mt Zion Light House Full Gospel Church, Nyakassang Assembly, Elder James Edem Akpan.

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