The Cross River State Government said it would foot the medical bills of hospitalised victims of Thursday’s electrocution of some football fans in Calabar.
The Deputy Governor, Prof. Ivara Esu, announced this when he visited some of the victims at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) on Friday.
The incident occurred while the fans were watching a Europa Championship match between Manchester United and Anderlecth of Belgium, at a private viewing centre.
The viewing centre is at Nyagasang area of Atimbo in Calabar Municipal Council Area, and the tragedy occurred at about 9.30 p.m.
Esu stated that seven persons died in the incident, which happened when electric cables from a high tension installation fell on the make-shift beer parlour used a viewing centres during football matches.
He said that the dead were among 18 injured who were taken to the teaching hospital, adding that 10 of them were responding to treatment while one was in the intensive care unit.
He described the incident as `painful’, but said that there had been misinformation about the casualty figure.
According to him, from what I have been briefed by the hospital management, seven persons died here in UCTH.
“Some persons said that some of the victims were taken to private hospitals and native homes for treatment, but what we can confirm from UCTH is that seven persons died out of the tragedy.
“The government is going to take full responsibility for their treatment,’’ he said.
The deputy governor said that the state would set up a commission of inquiry to ascertain the real cause of the problem.
“The Commissioner for Lands and Housing has been mandated to investigate why the building was erected directly under the high tension.
“ We are still trying to trace where the other victims were taken to; what we can account for now are those in UCTH,’’ he said.
The Head of Emergency Response Team in UCTH, Prof. Ikpeme Ikpeme, told newsmen that the victims were in stable condition and responding to treatment.
Some of the victims sustained injuries on their legs, hands and heads.
One of them, Mr Douglas Ibok, told NAN that the he went into the viewing centre at about the 80th minute of the match and immediately the explosion which was like a bomb occurred.
“As soon as I stepped into the viewing centre, paid and sat down, I heard a very loud sound in form of a bomb.
“As soon as the cable sparked, all the persons inside the viewing centre were unable to move or speak because of the electrocution. I only woke up to realize that I am in a hospital,’’ he said.
Another victim, Mr Benedict Okon, said that the viewing centre had been his regular centre for watching foreign and local matches for a long time.
Okon, a motor mechanic, said “I am very happy that the state government has promised to pay our medical bills because it would have been difficult for me at this point.’’
Mr John Onyi, Spokesman of Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC), told NAN that the company had enlightened people that for safety, they should give tolerance of 5.5 metres away from the high tension cable while erecting structures.
“The place in question has been isolated; light has been tripped off in that area with a view to ensure that the affected cable is replaced,’’ he said.