Three people died on the spot while another is battling for life at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre after a ladder they were using to replace Shoprite banners fell on overhead power lines.
The three, whose identities were not yet known as we went to press, were said to be labourers who used to camp around the area looking for piece works. They had been hired to replace the banners by William Mauya of William General Maintenance whose firm carries out maintenance work at Chichiri Shopping Mall in Blantyre.
According to witnesses, at around 12.30 pm, the deceased and two others identified as Moses Chirwa and Victor Namweto, contributed money for mmemo (lunch). They assigned Chirwa to prepare the lunch while the rest carried on with the work.
But a few minutes later, the four were knocked down by electric shock after the ladder they were climbing on moved because of strong winds.
The only survivor, Namweto, is said to have cried out for help but people could not help for fear of being electrocuted.
“He cried for help but we were all afraid to rescue them as they were electrocuted. We knew that we would put our lives at risk if we got too close to them,” said Joseph Steeption, a witness who sells newspapers around the area.
After about half an hour, the fire brigade from Blantyre City Council came to put out the fire, but they were too late for the three.
In an interview yesterday, Mauya said he was shocked by the accident.
“This is regrettable. I have been doing this for over 16 years but I have never experienced a tragedy like this,” he said.
In a separate interview, Blantyre Police Station spokesperson Augustus Nkhwazi said police are still investigating the matter. He said the deceased are not yet identified.
The bodies are currently at QECH.
Meanwhile, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has expressed shock at the loss of three lives and injuries.
In an interview yesterday, Escom public relations manager Innocent Chitosi advised the general public to always involve the corporation when working near its infrastructures. n