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 By Colin Udoh

Fans at Nigeria viewing centre electrocuted watching Man United

Seven football fans were electrocuted and killed on Thursday when a high-voltage electrical pole fell on a viewing centre in Nigeria during Manchester United's Europa League match against Anderlecht, according to authorities, although eyewitnesses say the number of fatalities could be higher.

People had gathered at the viewing centre in the Atimbo area of Calabar, the Cross River State capital, to watch a broadcast of the UEFA Europa League quarterfinal second leg at Old Trafford.

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An electrical pole broke from its mooring and fell on the viewing centre. No official figures have been given but eyewitnesses estimate the number of fatalities to be 30.

State Police spokesperson Assistant Superintendent Irene Ugbo, who confirmed the incident to local media and added that another 10 people were critically injured , said: "We have heard of the incident, some of the people were rushed to the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital for treatment."

Resident Ukeme Joseph put the death toll at 20 instead, saying more than 80 people were crammed inside at the time.

An unnamed eyewitness explained what happened inside the viewing centre, telling News Agency of Nigeria: "We were all inside watching the match when we heard the first strike from the transformer; the heavy sound caused panic because some people shouted and ran out.

"After a while, we came back into the viewing centre to continue with the match. Shortly, we heard another sound heavy sound and when some people tried to run away from the centre, they were affected. Over 50 of us escaped dead yesterday because we were standing by the door watching the game."

Cross River State governor Ben Ayade said in a statement: "The incident marks a dark chapter in the life of the state where the precious lives of football lovers have been lost.

"At this point in time, it is sad to know that the victims lost their lives at a viewing centre where they usually converge, at their leisure time to watch their matches."

The Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company has not commented on the incident, but authorities have said it is illegal to erect structures under high-tension cables.

Manchester United have sent condolences to the families of the victims, posting on their official Twitter account: "Our thoughts go out to the United fans, their friends and families affected by the tragedy in Calabar, Nigeria, yesterday."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

Colin Udoh is the West African editor for KweséESPN. Follow him on Twitter @ColinUdoh.


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