FIRE AND FLOOD IN ACCRA – SAMIA NKRUMAH’s ACCOUNT

Cape Point Lighthouse

Thursday June 4th 2015, we woke up to the dreadful news of damage done by the floods and one big explosion at a petrol station at Kwame Nkrumah Circle.

Some of us had been tracking the flood from the previous night as increasingly Accra had come to a near standstill because of the poor drainage system in different parts of the city.

CPP Executives joined the leaders of other political parties – NDC, NPP , PNC and NADMO officers to visit the disaster sites. In the wake of a national disaster of this magnitude, we took this step to move together, out of a conviction that we are one people with a common destiny despite our respective differences on how to manage our economy.

Our first stop was the Goil filling station where the charred remains of the unfortunate victims and lost properties from the disaster were there for all to see. The scene was busy and bizarre as ambulances ferried away the remains of the dead. The extent of the damage wreaked by both the flood and the fire was overwhelming. The latest figures show that nearly 200 people perished within the vicinity of the filling station alone. 

From there we went to the Graphic Road to witness further devastation in the industrial area. The group of political party leaders stopped briefly at Rana Motors, where the water level had reached two meters damaging engines, cars, etc,. We also stopped at other companies where we inquired at first hand the extent of the damage.

Having done a quick assessment of the economic and human cost of this unprecedented disaster we then went to 37 Military hospital to visit the survivors of the fire and flood who had been sent there on admission.

Going around the hospital beds, we were shocked to see so many young Ghanaians with different degrees of burns and other injuries. We stopped and spoke to as many as we could, who were conscious; we comforted them and prayed with them. One young man who had suffered burns but was able to speak heightened the sadness of the moment when he lamented “My main problem now is that I can’t find my sister!” pointing at her handbag at the foot of his bed.

After visiting the wards at 37, a few of us were taken to the morgue where the conclusive evidence of loss hit us with full force. It was particularly painful,  because most of the dead appeared young. As I looked at the young dead, I started praying, and raising my head, my eyes met those of the young pathologists and morgue technicians. The magnitude of what happened on 4th June 2015 was truly a national disaster.

To think that the dozens of young people Ghanaians were either wounded or dead only because they took refuge or shelter from the rain. That was very painful to contemplate.

At the Police Hospital, we visited more victims of the Nkrumah Circle fire. The same sentiments of shock and needless loss engulfed us once again. Among other victims, we met a young police officer who broke his legs in his attempt to help some of the victims. We must commend the police officers and personnel who worked through the night, 24 hours without interruption, answering a call to duty.

I am particularly impressed and greatly heartened by the role the medical staff, doctors,  nurses, Fire Service Personnel, Police, Army, and all emergency services have played at this ghastly time in our nation’s history. We commend all those unsung heroes who played a part in responding to crises all over the city. I have no doubt that their work will be made easier if they had all the logistics they need to do their work.

It is important that we help the medical teams by making sure that the urgent need for gloves, gauze, antibiotics, body bags, and other material is met as quickly as possible. NADMO promised to comply but I am sure any donations will be appreciated.

The Police Hospital itself like many public institutions was not spared from the ravages of the flood. We were shown evidence of flood damage in many parts of the hospital. The huge gutter outside the hospital near Danquah Circle was choked with weeds and refuse. It was clear that the choked gutter was responsible for the flooding in the Police Hospital.

Our tour yesterday has shown that this loss and damage could have been prevented or minimised. Sadly, this was partly a man-made disaster. Yesterday’s tragedy strengthens my conviction that only long term-planning in every aspect of our national life can solve our problems. In this case, the long-standing infrastructural problems of town planning, building regulation, sanitation, have clearly been ignored over the years as the urban population of Accra continues to grow. Planning and keeping in mind a vision for our cities, towns and villages will eliminate building on waterways, locating petrol stations in residential or crowded areas and prioritise a drainage system that is fit for purpose, amongst other things.

In the short term, we need to set up evacuation centers to prepare for any more emergencies during the rainy season. We urge the setting up of neighbourhood teams to coordinate clean-ups, distribution of clothes, food and any other items you can spare. Those who have the space can take in others until their homes dry out. This is the time to prove to be good neighbours, and citizens.

The CPP has opened the ‘CPP People in Need Appeal’ to receive donations of clothes, food and other items at CPP’s Headquarters, Mango Street, Asylum Down, Accra, for distribution to our brothers and sisters in distress. Hotlines are 02687066660572666704 and 0244610732.

In these challenging moments, I’m reminded of Kwame Nkrumah’s Motion of Destiny speech where he said, “Our aim is to make this country a worthy place for all its citizens, a country that will be a shining light throughout he whole continent of Africa, giving inspiration far beyond its frontiers. And this we can do by dedicating ourselves to unselfish service to humanity.” Let us reiterate our commitment to unselfish service to the people of Ghana and Africa.

God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong. Forward Ever!

Samia Yaba Nkrumah