Hundreds sought shelter at a gas station that later exploded due to a fuel leak consequence of torrential rains that caused massive floods. The death toll due to a massive explosion that occured Wednesday in Ghana’s capital Accra has risen to over 200, the Interior Ministry reported Friday.
Torrential rains caused huge floods, which in turn provoked a spillage at a gas station with the consequent explosion and flames, from which hundreds of people attempted to flee. Some drowned and many more died from causes directly related to the blast, officials told news media.
The fuel leak at the station caused also destroyed nearby buildings, local officials said.
President John Mahama told journalist Thursday the West African country would observe three days of mourning with flags flying at half-staff. He also pledged US12 million for rescue operations and for repairs of damaged infrastructure.
The U.S. news agency AP said that TV footage showed corpses being piled into the back of a pickup truck and other charred bodies trapped amid the debris. Floodwaters around the site hampered rescue and recovery efforts.
This was the worst disaster to strike the nation in more than a decade. In May 2001, 120 people died in a stampede at the national stadium during a football match.
Most of the victims had sought shelter from the floods at the state state-owned GOIL gas station, located near a busy downtown intersection. Hours later, people were engulfed in flames, while others died in the blast, authorities said.
The rains have left thousands homeless, while exposing the weaknesses of Accra’s infrastructure, as the government has failed to keep pace with the growing population and years of rapid economic expansion.
Witnesses said low-wage workers struggling home through the seasonal storm with roads closed and minivan buses not running were victims of the blast, the force of which gave few a chance to escape, according to Reuters.
“It was an explosive fire and so the people sheltering at the filling station did not have an opportunity to escape,” fire brigade spokesman Prince Billy Anaglate told reporters. Some victims were burned beyond recognition. Many were trapped and incinerated in the wreckage of cars and minivans on the station’s forecourt.