Pupils sent home; shops closed; 100s die in Ghana historic floods

Today is a holiday. But there is no merry-making or beach-going. There is plenty of tears. As plenty as the floods that caused them. It is holiday forced on a wretched nation by extraordinary circumstances – devastating floods.

Pupils were asked to stay home; those who ventured to school were sent back; workers were asked to stay home too; shops have closed and many are in hopeless search for answers.

Hours of torrential rain Wednesday exposed a spectacularly poorly planned city, wreaking havoc on businesses and property and more tragically, consuming precious lives.

The rains and their concomitant floods announced their presence on Tuesday but city authorities and residents either failed to take notice or were complacent.

But the rains returned Wednesday, this time with vengeance, bringing with them water, fire and death.

The centre of the disaster was the Goil filling adjacent the GCB Bank at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle.

It is believed that the underground tankers at the station leaked as a result of the massive floods that ravaged not only the Circle area, but vast spans of the city.

Residents around the area said they could smell fuel all around them and some moved out of their homes to higher grounds.

It transpired that the first layer of the sea of brown water that engulfed the immediate vicinity of the fuel station was fuel waiting for a spark and the spark came 300 meters away.

A resident of a house 300 meters away told Joy FM’s Super Morning Show host, Kojo Yankson, someone threw a lit cigarette into the floods and it instantly sparked the fire.

In a matter of seconds, the fire had traced its way to the filling state, the fuel spread on the flood waters providing the means for this.

A loud explosion with disastrous consequences occurred trapping many in buses, private vehicles, homes and shops.

Passengers in commercial vehicles waiting to be taken to their destinations, other commuters seeking refuge in shops were all burnt.

The fuel station became a scene of charred bodies, skeleton vehicles and a mixture of blood, mud and debris.

Many of the victims were seeking refuge at the fuel station after floods resulting from hours of rain submerged large parts of the capital.

In many parts of the city, dead bodies are being pulled out of drains, commercial and private vehicles swept away by floods, street corners, ramshackle shops, and homes.

The 37 Military Hospital is overwhelmed by dead bodies conveyed there in Kia Trucks.

Authorities there say they can no longer receive any more bodies. More than 80 bodies were counted as of 11am this morning and more victims were being brought in.

Families have been asked to come to the hospital at 3pm today to identify their relatives.

Whilst families grieve for their loss of relatives and shop owners count their own losses, politicians are scrambling to show their concern.

First to arrive at the major centres of the disaster was President John Mahama who said practical steps must and will be taken to ensure that Wednesday’s disastrous floods and their attendant deaths do not occur again.

The practice of building in watercourses, he said, was largely to blame for the flooding in Accra and must be checked.

The president visited the ravaged Kwame Nkrumah Circle and stopped at the Goil filling station which has been reduced to ashes.

There were charred bodies, burnt vehicles, blood mixed with fuel residue in a chaotic scene.

He was there with the Mayor of Accra and the Member of Parliament for Klottey Korle, Nii Armah Ashittey.

“A lot of people have lost their lives, many of them through the floods and very many of them through the fire at the filling station,” the President said.

“We have to take some measures to deal with this but a lot of times when the steps are drastic, you have people expressing sympathy,” he stated

“We must sit down and strategise to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” President Mahama.

Later and Interior Minister Mark Woyongo joined Accra Mayor Alfred Vanderpuije to tour some of the devastated areas.

An image of the Mayor and Interior Minister being provided shelter by umbrella-wielding young men has generated a storm of condemnation on social media.

Opposition leader, Nana Akufo-Addo, also went to the fire scene describing the disaster as a “dark moment in the nation’s history.”

The Progressive People’s Party (PPP) issued a statement blaming city authorities for the disaster.

The flood waters have now receded but the scale of the devastation they caused is all too visible.

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