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ELECTRIC CABLE KILLS 40 IN PORT HARCOURT

By Henry Chukwurah, Port Harcourt

No fewer than 40 persons were feared electrocuted yesterday morning in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when a high-tension wire fell on two commercial buses.

Several other persons were wounded in the incident, although the police authorities in the state insisted that only 10 persons were confirmed dead while 12 others sustained varying degree of burns.

Sunday Sun checks revealed that the tragedy occurred following a thunderstorm that accompanied an early morning downpour.

The storm was said to have caused a 'wire cut' of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) tension wire at the Slaughter axis of the Trans Amadi Industrial Layout in the capital city.

The 33KV tension wire serves the Oginigba and nearby Abuloma communities, both Port Harcourt suburbs.

Unfortunately, the tension cable fell on two commercial buses that were loading passengers at a nearby bus stop and electrocuted the occupants.

Some nearby food vendors and traders were also said to have either been electrocuted to death on the spot or received serious burns.

When contacted, Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mrs Rita Inoma-Abbey (DSP), said it is not true that between 50 and 100 persons died in the incident.

She told Sunday Sun that only 10 dead bodies were recovered from the scene while 12 unconscious persons were rushed to the hospital.

The police spokesperson said necessary security measures have been taken to safeguard PHCN installations from possible attack while the scene of the tragedy has been barricaded.

However, unofficial sources at the state-owned Braithwaite Memorial Hospital (BMH), where the dead and some of the wounded were taken to, said more persons may have died from the incident.

Also, an eyewitness, Mr Moses Bante, who said he saw a tree branch fall on the cable that later fell on the buses, put the number of casualties at, 'about 40 persons.'

Meanwhile, the PHCN Port Harcourt Zonal Office has apologized to the families of the deceased, those who sustained injuries and the public over the incident.

Its spokesman, Mr John Onyi, confirmed that the thunderstorm caused 'a wire cut and the wire fell on two buses and there was electrocution.'

He, however, said investigation into the incident had begun.

When Sunday Sun visited the scene, the entire area had been barricaded to prevent the crowd from getting close.