Ghana's capital cleans up after fire, floods kill 150

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 05, 2015 1:40 PM

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA (Reuters) - Authorities in Ghana cleared wreckage on Friday and braced for more rains, a day after flooding and an explosion at a packed gas station killed 150 people in the capital.

Emergency workers in protective gear retrieved household goods, fridges and wardrobes from Accra's clogged storm drains while security officials collected another body from a house near the gutted downtown filling station, witnesses said.

"Rain or no rain, it is our responsibility to rescue life and property and we'll continue to do that until we are convinced that no person or vehicle is trapped anywhere," said James Buka of the National Disaster Management Organization.

Days of torrential rain blocked Accra's ageing drainage system and flooded the streets, forcing hundreds of workers who were unable to return home to seek shelter at the station in the early hours of Thursday.

A spark ignited leaked fuel, incinerating 96 people before they could flee. The disaster was the worst in decades in Ghana, a country for years seen as a bastion of peaceful democracy and rapid economic growth.

Since 2013, President John Mahama's government has wrestled with a host of fiscal problems that, along with lower prices for exports of gold, oil and cocoa, have sharply slowed economic growth projections.

Ghana is also grappling with a severe electricity crisis resulting in frequent blackouts that have crippled businesses and angered voters.

One survivor of Thursday's fire said there was a power cut just before the blast and a generator switched on at the station to provide light may have triggered the explosion.

Business leaders calculated losses from flooding that submerged cars in showrooms and damaged goods in warehouses.

"Most of the companies affected are capital-intensive industries with huge investments," insurance expert Larry Jiagge told Reuters, adding that the industry could cope given reinsurance facilities abroad.

Authorities began a controlled spill of water from the Weija dam in a western suburb to relieve pressure they fear could cause a breach if left unchecked, given that the country is in the middle of the June-July wet season, officials said.

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Dominic Evans)