Two vehicles in flames at Bolga Technical Institute

Fire has razed a 33-seater luxury bus and a truck completely at the Bolgatanga Technical Institute (BOTECH) Thursday afternoon in what eyewitnesses say started off with an unexplained sound of explosion that came from one of the automobiles.

Thick black smokes, spiraling skywards like an angry whirlwind from the burning school bus and a truck, attracted students, residents and passersby to the spine-chilling scene of the bonfire – the forecourt of the official residence of the school’s principal. Helpless onlookers, mostly students, wailed with their hands over their heads as the red flames consumed the vehicles in a haste before firemen arrived to tame the wild fire.

Distraught school authorities appeal for aid
Distraught school authorities appeal for aid

“I had a call from the principal’s daughter,” said Mac-Anthony Atongo, a woodwork tutor at the school. “I was at my workshop, close to the principal’s house where the buses are parked and other cars. When she called me, I could hear the sound of a horn through the phone. I asked her what the noise was for. She said maybe somebody [was] inside the bus. Even from afar, I could see the wiper was moving. I said she should check because it was not normal. Before I realised, I just saw the smoke coming. I called my HOD to call the fire service. We came to use sand to [put out] the fire but we couldn’t.”

Another bus was close to the burning vehicles. Mr. Atongo managed to salvage it after grabbing its keys from the principal’s daughter and drove it to safety through the ballooning flames. The horror struck around 3:30pm when the students were taking their lunch on campus.

Burnt vehicles are a huge loss to us- school authorities

One of the charred vehicles- the bus- is said to be among the means of transportation used for the organisation of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana and shared after the tournament by government in 2009 among some second-cycle institutions.

And, according to the authorities of the school, many of the external co-curricular events the school had attended before the Thursday’s tragedy could have been missed but for the availability of the now-gone bus.

he late-noon horror attracted a huge crowd
he late-noon horror attracted a huge crowd

“The bus means a lot to the school and even to the community at which the school is sited. It’s the bus that we used to go on our excursions and all that. And we have relied heavily on this particular bus for many of our errands in terms of bereavements of staff, members and relations. It is this bus that we have always relied on for these services. And as it is in this state now, unless the government comes to our aid immediately, then we have a long way to go in terms of means of transport,” Abraham Yendemeh, a senior tutor, told newsmen as he coughed recurrently in the middle of the corrosive fumes springing out from the dying embers of the charred vehicles.

Two tragedies in less than a year

Firemen had not established what might have led to the combustion as of the time newsmen were leaving the scene. But the firefighters, surrounded by a crowd of students, tutors and residents, could be heard asking questions to eyewitnesses whilst inspecting the scalded bodies of the vehicles.

Firemen fighting the flames.
Firemen fighting the flames.

This is the second major tragedy to have hit the institute in less than a year. In the middle of 2016, the roof on the school’s Motor Vehicle Technology workshop was torn apart by a rainstorm. The storm flipped the roofing sheets over, threw them away from each other and relocated parts of the woodwork far across the Bolgatanga-Navrongo Highway.

That disaster happened just when the students were preparing for the national practical tests of the Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) examinations. The school’s principal, Thomas Amare, was as distraught after the 2016 sudden storm as he is devastated today after the Thursday’s unexpected fire.