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35 Die as Fireworks Bring Down Power Line in Peru

August 16, 1996| From Times Wire Services

LIMA, Peru — An errant rocket launched during a fireworks show in southern Peru knocked a high-tension line into the crowd, killing 35 people. Some of the victims burst into flames as 10,000 volts surged through their bodies.

The accident, which also sent 42 people to the hospital with burns, occurred just before midnight Wednesday as residents of Arequipa were celebrating the 456th anniversary of the founding of the city.

All of the victims were Peruvian, police said, although the annual festival attracts thousands of tourists, some of them foreign.

Festival-goers were packed tightly on a cobblestone bridge to watch the fireworks and a folk music show when the rocket went astray, hitting a power line and exploding, police said. The cable snapped, exposing its wiring, and fell onto the bridge. The electrical current surged through the crowd.

Witnesses and rescue workers said many people under the bridge continued celebrating after the tragedy, assuming the noise came from the fireworks and the crowd above them.

City authorities declared Thursday a day of mourning and formally suspended anniversary celebrations. Atty. Gen. Blanca Nelida Colan said an investigation had been launched into the cause of the accident.

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