Exactly a year ago, what was supposed to be an ordinary wet Wednesday evening turned out to be a tragic one. The Goil Filling Station at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra became the site of a cruel catastrophe after a gas explosion claimed the lives of many people who had sought refuge from the floods in the area. Hundreds of Ghanaians of different status, men, women, children, adults, nurses, food vendors, commercial drivers among many others were caught up in the disaster. Many escaped but more than 150 lost their lives in that unprecedented disaster to have ever occurred on Ghanaian soil, at least in recent history. The 37 Military, Police, Korle Bu and Ridge Hospitals were overwhelmed with the disaster victims. The unfortunate event left many survivors with psychological trauma by way of unpleasant memories, while physically some have had to live with very grave scars all over their bodies. Government released about GH¢60 million to cater for the hospital bills of the victims. The President declared three days of national mourning.
Indeed, the entire nation was thrown into a state of shock, not only because of the number of lives lost and injured but also because the disaster was preventable. In a swift reaction, state institutions which appeared to have been sleeping all those while suddenly woke up from their slumber and began to work. The Accra Metropolitan and Ga West Municipal Assemblies started to demolish structures on water ways. The Ministries of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation, the Environmental Protection Agency, National Petroleum Authority as well as the Ghana National Fire Service also went on a nationwide inspection tour of gas and fuel filling stations. It was a good move, AMA Chief Executive - Alfred Oko Vanderpuije was particularly commended for mastering the courage to demolish the famous Old Fadama, popularly known as Sodom and Gomorrah despite its political ramifications for the ruling government. One filling station was pulled down and a few others ordered to stop working.Unfortunately but characteristic of most public servants and state institutions in Ghana, these state actors have gone back to sleep again and are not able to sustain their efforts. It even seems the disaster victims have been forgotten and no one cares about them again in spite of the mouthwatering promises made to them in the early days of the disaster.
But one year after the unfortunate incident, the question that needs to be asked is whether as a nation, we have learnt any lessons at all. There is no doubt that the disaster was mainly due to human activities rather than natural causes. It first of all had to do with poor planning and engineering of our cities and towns, and interlinked with that is people's attitude towards waste disposal. It is unthinkable that in this 21st century, right thinking individuals will be throwing solid waste such as refuse and used clothing and incredibly, items such as old fridges into the drains. As if that is not enough, people without any shred of guilt, seal gutters and put up residential or commercial structures at such places thereby blocking the flow of water with impunity. Amazingly, this reprehensible attitude has been taken to another level where people are now filling lagoons and other water receptacles for the construction of buildings. A few days ago, the Tema Metropolitan NADMO Coordinator indicated that because people have filled parts of the Sakumo lagoon and put up buildings there, about seven thousand people living at Tema Community Five are at risk of flooding should there be heavy rains.
Similar situation exists in many parts of the country and authorities appear to be toothless in dealing with it. The siting of filling stations in crowded areas is still going on unabated. We do not expect those in authority to be lamenting and recounting the problems, what the citizens expect is concrete action on their part. With the benefit of the June 3 2015 disaster, these authorities should go back to action and ensure that all buildings are well sited and those put up at undesirable places, demolished with the speed of light. Citizens must also change their attitude and realise that gutters are meant for liquid waste, especially water and nothing else and that water bodies are not refuse dumps or building plots. The AMA and for that matter government, must ensure the speedy dredging of the Korle and Odaw lagoons. The little rains in the last few days have revealed that more need to be done in order to prevent flooding in our cities and villages. As the nation marks one year of the twin disaster, government and benevolent individuals and organisations must remember and attend to the survivors and the dependents of the deceased.
May the souls of the departed rest in peace.
BY BUBU KLINOGO, A JOURNALIST.