Brazilian police say at least 16 people were electrocuted during a freak accident during a large pre-Carnival parade a days before the world's largest party is set to take place.
Witnesses reported a high-voltage power line sparked and fell on the dancing crowd after it was hit by metallic streamers commonly tossed during Brazil's Carnival or by fireworks, police said, though the cause remained under investigation.
"We have at least 16 dead, among them teenagers," said a police spokesman in the town of Bandeira do Sul in Minas Gerais state, north of Rio de Janeiro, where the accident happened Sunday night. "Most were hit by the line but it's possible the current passed from person to person because the crowd was so dense."
At least 54 other people were injured, some severely. Shortly after the accident, police said 17 people died, but they reduced that figure after conferring Monday with hospitals and morgues where victims were taken.
The partygoers were following a sound truck that was booming music when the accident happened in front of the town's main plaza. Such street parties are common across Brazil in the days before and during Carnival, which officially opens Friday. Television footage showed dazed people milling about the darkened square — the accident knocked out electricity and phone service to the entire town for at least six hours, the police spokesman said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the case.
It is at least the third tragedy to hit Brazil's Carnival festivities this year. On Feb. 20, a 21-year-old woman in Rio de Janeiro died after falling 13 feet (4 meters) from atop a Carnival sound truck in front of Copacabana beach, striking her head on the pavement. On Feb. 7, a major fire roared through warehouses in central Rio de Janeiro where major samba groups construct their massive floats, costumes and props used during the city's elaborate parades televised across the nation. No deaths were reported in the blaze, but it destroyed months of work and caused millions of dollars in damage for three of the samba groups.
The accident happened late Sunday in the small town of Bandeiro do Sul in Minas Gerais state.
Carnival officially begins on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this content.