17 die in Carnival mishaps
Every year residential areas — especially in the Panama City and San Miguelito metro area but not only there — empty out as people head for Carnival celebrations, beaches and mountain resorts for the long Carnival weekend. People tend to die, with alcohol often playing a role, in traffic accidents, drownings or violence amidst the crowds of revelers. This year nobody was killed in Carnival scene violence but the overall death toll went up to 17, as compared to 13 in 2015. This year 13 died on the roads and four drowned.
The police changed their traffic deployments from previous years, but aggressive drivers caught on and changed the venues of their obnoxious behavior accordingly. The carnage began early on the evening of Carnival Friday when a driver tried to get ahead of the crush at El Espino in La Chorrera and a rollover accident left one dead and four injured. The initial exodus from the city was perhaps heavier than previous years because there were announced water outages in the metro area on Carnival Saturday and because the capital’s celebrations have been scaled down from the days when Ricardo Martinelli and Salo Shamah used them to skim money from the government by way of lavishly funded Carnivals in which parts of the supposed big paychecks for international artists were siphoned off. By anecdotal evidence the city was quieter and more deserted than usual, but that made the early rush to the Interior heavier. By Saturday morning’s news reports six people had died. The Transito cops made a few readjustments but by the end of the six-day break (counting Carnival Friday, which is officially not a holiday but on which a lot of people take off early from work, and Ash Wednesday, the morning of which is an official half-day off) there were 13 traffic fatalities, two more than in 2015.
The extreme El Niño year has the nation’s rivers running low, which generally makes them less dangerous. However, the dry season winds were exceptionally heavy, making ocean waters choppier and blowing out to sea on the Pacific Side. SINAPROC ordered beaches closed for swimming and bathing on Carnival Saturday, but not everybody respected the red flags and Panama’s coastlines are too extensive for a government presence on every beach. Despite the precautions four people drowned, double last year’s unusually low death toll from that cause.
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