Survivors’ story: A 50-person stampede in 6ft of flood waters

Kelvin Aggor’s suit in the Joy FM studio clothed him with a sense of self-respect. He looked decent, professional, and clean-shaven – the dignity of his humanity showed in his outlook.

Seven days ago, Wednesday night he looked none of this.

Flood and fire Wednesday night threatened to reduce him to what we all really are.

Nothing but nicely shaped and shaven mud. Neatly baked clay blessed with a brain.

He almost fatally reconnected with man’s basic material composition. But almost.

The microfinance professional survived the fate of 152 others who perished in Accra’s twin disaster.

“When you get up from bed, each and every person should thank the Almighty” he began his interview on the Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Wednesday as the nation holds a memorial one week after the tragic disaster.

He was moving from Labone to Circle after 6pm to his North Kaneshie home. No taxi was willing to do that while it was raining.

So he was resigned to use Trotro – Not the fastest means for his desire to get home quickly.

Three hours after leaving the office, he was still stuck at Circle and the ignition of the 207 bus gave up, leaving them stranded. Whilst sitting in the bus and hoping and praying that the driver would manage to start his vehicle, “we felt water under our feet.” Apparently flood waters had risen so high the vehicle was beginning to be flooded.

Aggor is 6 feet 2 inches tall. Dropping into the flood he was reduced to 3 feet and some inches.

Floods erased their hope of getting home in the bus and reduced this aim to simply finding shelter at the ATM of the GCB BANK

The velocity of the water was so bad, so serious…..”it was carrying a lot of cars with pace,” he stressed.

Just in front of the GCB banking hall, 50 people cramped there with the water now at knee level. Someone suggested that they move to the filling station some feet away. Today, he remembers that they were preserved because it remained a suggestion.

It was 11:30pm.
“We started smelling petrol in the water. Someone passed a comment, can anyone smell fuel around and all of us said yes we are smelling it,” he recounted.

A sudden explosion rattled the sense of relative comfort, forcing them into adrenaline-informed re-assessment of jumping straight into the flood.

Fifty people, one small opening, huge floods, raging fire in one simultaneous push for safety.

“I jumped into the water, the fire from the explosion followed….it was moving like balls…balls of fire..it was just coming…it wasn’t like normal burning of fire” Kelvin struggled to describe an Armageddon scene.

“The fire was chasing you on the water so those who didn’t have the strength or the height to move, you see them drowning….people were pulling at you, they were struggling, they were holding you left and right because they couldn’t see above the waters”.

It was a stampede in flood waters where a 6’2 ft tall banker had only his head as the most visible part of the body.

Anyone a feet less was submerged as fire rolled above. Severe fear gripped them as they desperately tried to challenge the amazing velocity of the flood to move in the opposite direction.

Kelvin held on to a rail as he anticipated an awkward swim to a construction site on the opposite side.

The raging fire was motivation enough to jump into the high-velocity flood or a crippling fear to simply hold on to the rail and await a fatal fate of ferocious fire.

A woman, he saw, shouted her helplessness, holding on to the rail.

“She was afraid to jump into the water to cross to a heap of sand”, Kelvin Aggor said.

Stuck there in the face of definite dreaded death, she shouted, “I am drowning”.

Kelvin didn’t see her again.
Five people formed a wall holding hands and swam to a heap gravel deposited by construction workers. The mountain of grvel itself was surrounded by a sea of brown water on which fuel flowed. The survivors needed to either jump into much worse flood water and try getting hold of a very small ladder left by construction workers to climb up to the newly constructed flyover or just stay where they were and resign to their fate.

He saw the ladder on Monday while going to work. On Wednesday, it was his only means to survival. He said they climbed the ladder like crabs. People shoved others off the ladder in fear and panic.

“How I managed to climb onto the ladder, I don’t know and I can’t tell you how I did it. Managing to climb that ladder to the new overhead bridge [under construction] I don’t know”

Perched on a bridge of safety, he now surveyed the horror of chaos. The filling station had become an empty space. Buses were totally submerged.

About 50 left the ATM at GCB Towers. Only about 7 or 10 made it to the bridge barely 50 feet away.

He said on the Super Morning Show, the mention of ‘Kwame Nkrumah Circle’, is one location he just doesn’t want to ever hear about.

His trauma was complete.
Story by Ghana|myjoyonline.com|Edwin Appiah|[email protected]


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