More than 150 killed in Ghana fill­ing sta­tion blast

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

More than 150 peo­ple have died in a dev­as­tat­ing fill­ing sta­tion blast dur­ing heavy flood­ing in Ghana’s cap­i­tal, prompt­ing the na­tion’s leader to call three days of na­tional mourn­ing over the “cat­a­strophic” loss of life.

The fire hit a fill­ing sta­tion in Ac­cra late on Wed­nes­day, caus­ing an ex­plo­sion at the pumps that killed dozens of peo­ple seek­ing shel­ter from tor­ren­tial rains and wide­spread flood­ing in the area that also claimed nu­mer­ous vic­tims.

“As of yes­ter­day (Thurs­day) we have re­cov­ered more than 150 corpses. Sixty peo­ple have been taken to the hos­pi­tal,” Red Cross dis­as­ter man­age­ment co­or­di­na­tor Fran­cis Obeng told AFP Fri­day, rais­ing the toll from Thurs­day’s count of at least 90 killed.

As he toured the scene of the dis­as­ter, Ghana’s Pres­i­dent John Dra­mani Ma­hama de­scribed the loss of life as “cat­a­strophic and al­most un­prece­dented” and an­nounced three days of na­tional mourn­ing from Mon­day, with flags fly­ing at half-mast, af­ter res­cue op­er­a­tions fin­ished.

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

Ex­plo­sion ‘Heard across

cap­i­tal’

The fire, which is thought to have spread from a nearby res­i­dence, ap­peared to have en­gulfed a bus full of pas­sen­gers that was wait­ing at the sta­tion, an AFP re­porter at the scene said.

Dozens of charred mo­tor­cy­cles and cars were vis­i­ble on the fore­court.

Lo­cal res­i­dents said many peo- ple 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 in the Kwame Nkrumah Cir­cle area of the city be­fore the fire, which caused an ex­plo­sion at the pumps, ac­cord­ing to eye-wit­nesses.

The in­ferno quickly spread to a nearby phar­macy and sev­eral build­ings next to the fill­ing sta­tion.

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 af­ter be­ing knocked un­con­scious and fall­ing into the flood wa­ters.

Obeng said res­cuers as well as dozens of vol­un­teers were cur­rently pro­vid­ing re­lief ma­te­ri­als to those dis­placed or af­fected by the dis­as­ter.

“We are pro­vid­ing blan­kets, mats and drugs to res­i­dents in the seven com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by the fire and flood­ing,” he said.

“UNDP (United Na­tions Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme) of­fi­cials are also join­ing us in our ef­forts to bring suc­cour to those af­fected.”

Fire Ser­vice Stuck

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

“Our first pri­or­ity now is to save lives and pre­vent any fur­ther suf­fer­ing of our peo­ple but be­yond that, we’ll take the tough mea­sures that are nec­es­sary to pre­vent such dis­as­ters from oc­cur­ring in the fu­ture,” he later added.

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 con­struc­tion work 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, with roads blocked and cars swept away or over­turned 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 had 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.

Ghana po­lice spokesman Arthur Cephas said the sit­u­a­tion was un­der con­trol.

“Po­lice are pro­tect­ing lives and prop­er­ties as well as en­sur­ing that ev­i­dence that would as­sist in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is not tam­pered with,” he told AFP.

“We have com­menced in­ves­ti­ga­tions into this mon­u­men­tal na­tional tragedy.”

AP

Gha­nian po­lice of­fi­cers walk past the re­main­ing struc­ture of a gas sta­tion in Ac­cra, Ghana, Fri­day, June 5, af­ter it ex­ploded dur­ing flash flood­ing which swept fuel be­ing stored at the sta­tion into a nearby fire, trig­ger­ing an ex­plo­sion that also set ablaze neigh­bor­ing build­ings and killed many peo­ple shel­ter­ing from the storm, of­fi­cials said.

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