Accra Inferno Kills 175

Accra Inferno Kills 175Accra Inferno Kills 175

Some 175 people have died in a fire at a petrol station in Ghana’s capital, Accra, officials say.

The fire on Wednesday night started as people in the city were trying to cope with two days of heavy rain, which has left many homeless and without power.

The flooding hampered rescue efforts and may have led to the fire, BBC reported.

President John Dramani Mahama has announced three days of national mourning to begin on Monday.

It is thought that people were in the petrol station sheltering from the downpours when the fire broke out.

President Mahama visited the burnt-out station and described the deaths as “catastrophic” and “almost unprecedented”.

He vowed to take tough measures to stop people building on waterways, which appeared to have been a factor in the disaster.

“I think that the time has come for us to remove houses out of water and the public should understand that it is necessary to save everybody else,” he said.

Following an emergency meeting of cabinet and security chiefs on how to tackle flooding, the government says it will release £9 million ($14 million) to help flood victims. Schools were closed across the capital and children asked to stay at home.

The Red Cross and emergency services retrieved dozens bodies from the gas station in central Accra.

 Residents Distraught

Amid the chaos and ongoing rescue work, eyewitnesses told DW how they saw the fire engulfed the gas station and a store nearby. “Anybody the fire met on its way was burnt,” one local resident said.

Ghana’s health minister Alex Segbefia warned of further risks by the floods, such as a possible cholera outbreak. “Let’s not be caught in the same way that we were in the past,” he said.

Communications minister Edward Omane Boamah said the police, the fire brigade and the National Disaster Management Organization were doing their best to help people affected by the floods, but he also advised residents to stay on high ground and “avoid fast-moving rainwater and areas they know have big drains”.

Ghana’s capital and its surroundings are often hit by heavy rain and flooding in June and July. In the past the rainfall has flooded the city’s roads, the drainage system as well as businesses and residential buildings.

Two days of heavy rain has brought much of the city to its knees. There are chaotic scenes with cars being carried away by the water and many roads blocked off. Hundreds have been trapped in their offices and some have been forced to spend the night in their cars as traffic came to a standstill.

Parts of Accra have been left without power as electricity sub-stations have been damaged in the flooding, which is making the ongoing energy shortages even worse.