Roberta Ayeley Addy, an umbrella seller who hawks at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra, got killed together with her one year old daughter during last Wednesday’s floods and her family is still searching for her corpse for burial.
Roberta’s sister, Asabea, was selling umbrellas with her in the drizzle when it suddenly turned into a storm, trapping them at the GOIL fuel station just before the explosion and inferno. Asabea escaped death narrowly and has narrated the tragic happenings to NEWS-ONE in an interview that saw her weeping throughout.
Can you confirm your sister is the dead woman with a baby on her in that popular picture now gone viral?
No. My sister and her baby died a worse death than drowning. My sister’s baby is just one year old and a girl. The baby in the photo looks like a boy and the woman is not wearing the clothes my sister wore when I left her in the shop at the GOIL station. See her photo here. You can tell the difference.
Why did you leave her in the shop at GOIL?
The rains got very heavy. My sister was carrying her baby on her back and we were all in the rain but the baby was feeling very cold and crying and we were starting to drown so we all rushed into the GOIL station. But the shop attendant said the manager would be angry and that we were too many. We pleaded with her that the baby was feeling very cold so she should have mercy. But I was forced to move out.
But I left the place completely because I could not stand the scent of the fuel in the water. It was very strong and there was nothing I could use to cover my nose so I left and together with others we passed through the water to climb the heap of sand used in building the new over pass. Even there we were falling over and into the water and because the fuel had mixed with the water, we had become slippery and it was difficult to hold someone who was falling back into the water.
Then the lights went off and not long after, we heard the explosion from somewhere and the fire started burning and was fast spreading in the water and coming our direction. At that point, I got scared and thought of Ayeley and her baby.
VICTIM! Roberta Ayeley Addy and daughter believed to have burnt to death
I managed to climb to the top and fell over the other side. We were many and I blacked out so I couldn’t remember anything until I felt someone was pointing a torchlight into my face and the person carried me to safety. I was weak but decided to go and look for my sister and her baby. When I got there the whole place had burnt down. My sister was inside the shop when I left her. Ayeley could not have gone out with her baby into the cold rain. I am sure she got burnt to death with the baby.
Why were you selling umbrellas at that time of the night?
The AMA boss won’t let us sell there during the day. They keep chasing us here and there. You know that at night Circle is as busy as the day time so we have a very vibrant night market there. My sister and I sell other things but in the rainy season, we sell umbrellas because it gets sold very fast. On that day, we had sold over GH¢3500 and when I was leaving the shop, I thought my sister was in a safer place so I gave all the money to her to hold.
Was it greed that made you continue to sell in the rain?
No. We had closed and I went with Ayeley to the station to make sure she had a bus home but there was no bus at Kaneshie station. She was going to Ablekuma Fan Milk area but since there was no car and we could not stand in the rain, we decided to go seek refuge at the GOIL station. It was on our way from the bus station that we saw that the Odaw market had been flooded and my small shop was gone with all my goods in it. But my sister still had some goods and we had made some sales too.
How vibrant is the ‘night market’ you spoke of?
Sometimes we even sleep there because we sell late into the night and people keep buying. Circle is always busy and at night the AMA Task Force won’t come destroying your goods or seizing them and taking them away. But on Wednesday, we decided to leave because of the cold and the rain. So I locked up and went with my sister to get her into a car that would take her home. Her baby was also feeling very cold.
Has any help come your way since the tragedy?
No. Nothing has come from anyone. There is not even a place to go and complain or call for help or give the identity of my sister so people could help find her in case she also survived or even her corpse or something. No relief items, no treatment for the injury, the shop in which we keep our goods is gone, the capital for the business is gone, my sister is gone, and her baby is gone. No one is interested in hearing our story. Nothing. We remain forgotten just like all the past years our shops got flooded.
Was that your sister’s only child?
Ayeley had two children, all girls, aged five and one. She stayed with her husband at Ablekuma but we all sold at Circle to support the family. She was 34 years old.
By Halifax Ansah-Addo
Pix credit: Theophilus C. Tetteh
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