More than 70 dead fol­low­ing gas sta­tion fire in Ghana­ian cap­i­tal

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY NANA BOAKYE-YI­ADOM

More than 70 peo­ple were killed in a fire at a gas sta­tion in Ghana’s cap­i­tal, Ac­cra, as they sought shel­ter from heavy rains that caused wide­spread flood­ing, emer­gency ser­vices said Thurs­day.

The fire broke out at the fill­ing sta­tion in the Kwame Nkrumah Cir­cle area of the city late on Wed­nes­day night and is thought to have spread from a nearby res­i­dence.

Ghana’s Pres­i­dent John Dra­mani Ma­hama de­scribed the loss of life as “cat­a­strophic and al­most un­prece­dented,” as he toured the scene of the dis­as­ter on Thurs­day morn­ing.

“A lot of peo­ple have lost their lives and I am lost for words,” he told re­porters.

A se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer said “the fire ser­vice alone has re­trieved about 73 bod­ies,” while Red Cross dis­as­ter man­age­ment co­or­di­na­tor Fran­cis Obeng put the death toll at “more than 70.”

Lo­cal hos­pi­tals said morgues were full and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials said the death toll was likely to rise, as fire in­ves­ti­ga­tors picked through the charred de­bris to de­ter­mine what caused the in­ferno.

Dozens of mo­tor­cy­cles were seen burnt and the fire is also thought to have en­gulfed a bus full of pas­sen­gers that was wait­ing on the fore­court, an AFP re­porter at the scene said.

Lo­cal res­i­dents said many peo­ple had sought refuge un­der the fill­ing sta­tion canopy from days of heavy rains that have en­gulfed Ac­cra.

Flood wa­ters had reached knee level on the road be­side the Ghana Oil Com­pany (GOIL) gas sta­tion be­fore the fire, which caused an ex­plo­sion at the pumps, ac­cord­ing to eye-wit­nesses.

The ex­plo­sion was heard and seen across the cap­i­tal. It was not im­me­di­ately clear ex­actly how the vic­tims died, with re­ports that some had drowned.

Blocked Drains

Ma­hama ex­tended his con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of those who lost loved ones and said “pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures” needed to be taken against flood­ing that hits the city ev­ery year.

The GOIL fill­ing sta­tion is next to a large open drain that car­ries wa­ter from sur­round­ing ar­eas to the sea.

But like many gut­ters in the city, it was blocked with rub­bish, caus­ing wa­ter to spill onto the streets. Flood­ing is ex­ac­er­bated by build­ing in the city.

One wit­ness, Edgar Wiredu, told GTV 24 tele­vi­sion: “Be­cause of the con­struc­tion work, the whole of ( Kwame Nkrumah) Cir­cle was flooded.

“When the fire ser­vice got to the scene, they got stuck. They strug­gled to gain ac­cess to the scene.”

At least two days of rains have caused chaos in Ac­cra, leav­ing many sub­urbs sub­merged and peo­ple stranded, as roads were blocked and cars were car­ried away in or up­turned by the flood wa­ters.

Al­ready sketchy power sup­plies had been cut to some com­mu­ni­ties as elec­tric­ity sub- sta­tions were un­der wa­ter, said com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Ed­ward Omane Boamah.

Boamah, who called the sit­u­a­tion a “na­tional emer­gency,” said the armed forces, po­lice, fire and the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion have been de­ployed to help those af­fected.

“The gen­eral public is kindly ad­vised to avoid fast-mov­ing rain­wa­ter and ar­eas they know have big drains. Stay on higher ground, where nec­es­sary, to pre­vent loss of life,” he added.

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