Thursday: 20th day of January, 2022 was a red-letter day for Apiate. A couple were visiting their relatives to give them oral notice of their knot-tying on Sunday. A nagging wife was chastising her husband for not going to farm to collect foodstuffs for supper instead of playing draughts. The local school-children were on “recreation”, and while the males were either chasing rubber-stuffed balls or running over obstacles, their female counterparts were either playing “ampe” or doing “merry-go-round”. Given their ebullient spirits, the children could spare no time to chat quietly or croon to their friends' ears.
Meanwhile, on the road which divides Apiate into two, a vehicle carrying “highly inflammable” material had got one of its tyres burst, and the vehicle had gone into a ditch. The driver managed to come out of the vehicle, and ran as fast as his thin legs could carry him to tell everyone he met (including the school teachers ) to run away from the scene of the accident because he was afraid of a possible explosion.
The teachers as they were wont to do -got the school children to a far -flung place- away from the scene of the accident. Some people decided to go near the accident and see things live, and some wanted to get close to take pictures, to send to social media (and get kudos for being the first to send pictures …that would go viral on social media).
Then -boom-and another-boom- all the 500 cement-plastered mud-houses were flattened. Life came to a standstill. By evening news (breaking news) started filtering in on our radio and TV networks. The BBC and A1 Jazeera captured it.
Shocking! And the President Nana Akufo-Addo could not hide his feeling: “… a truly sad, unfortunate and tragic … loss of lives and destruction of properties” Immediately, the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia led a high -powered government delegation to the town, and the persons included. Hon. Ambrose Dery, Minister of the Interior, Hon. Samuel Abu Jinapor, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Minister of Information, Hon. Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, West Regional Minister, Dr. George Dampare, the IGP, Hon. Robert Wisdom Cudjoe, MP for Prestea- Huni Valley, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, the former MP for Prestea-Huni Valley and officials of NADMO, and Fire service.
The Vice President, in the name of the government, offered the community GH¢200,000 and some relief items. The Vice-President announced. “The government knows that aside from the provision of the relief items, more needs to be done since you cannot be at the temporary shelter forever. The government has, therefore, charged the State Housing Company to rebuild houses for the families”.
The Western Regional Minister, Hon. Darko-Mensah called for corporate support for the recovery and reconstruction of the town. He expressed gratitude to the Catholic Church for its quick support. Mr. Ibrahim Mahama, a business man pledged the support of his Dzata Cement Factory to help the rebuilding of the community using his Dzata cement. He made available to the community some relief items.
Hon. Abu Jinapor had announced the suspension of Maxam Company, run by Toronto – based Kinross. Abu Jinapor had ordered a thorough investigation into the incident. It is hoped that the transportation of the explosive materials by Joceyderk Logistics Limited followed the directives as per Regulation 27 of the Minerals and Mining (Explosives) Regulation, 2012, L.I.2177: “A person shall not transport explosives if that person does not have an operating license granted for that purpose by the Commission. The operating license is (a) valid only for the area and for the period stipulated in the license…”
The investigations are likely to confirm whether the transport of the explosives rigidly followed Regulations 104-110: “The vehicle (a) is of sound construction … (b) is propelled by diesel engine… provided with two fire extinguishers… has a “ NO SMOKING” sign posted in the cab…passes through areas of lesser population density… driver shall not drive faster than sixty (60) kilometers per hour… done under police escort… shall not stop or park that vehicle in any city, town, village or residential accommodation …”
ACP Kwesi Ofori the Director of Public Affairs of the Ghana Police Service had declared that the transportation of the explosives by Maxam had “followed proper procedure”. Hopefully, the investigation team may, find out the role of the Chief Inspector in all precautionary measures, and confirm whether the regulations were rigidly followed. It will confirm whether a tricycle crossed the vehicle, since we now have two conflicting stories.
Meanwhile, as of the time of writing, the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Prestea Huni Valley, Hon. Issac Dasmani had announced: “For now, we can say that there are 14 who are dead and about five are in critical condition now … We have received a lot of relief items but we can't share them because of where they are now. Once we move them (away from the congested churches) we can provide them with all the necessary utensils they can use to cook, we can distribute the food to them…we are creating washrooms and places of convenience … I am also going to buy poly tank to supply them with enough water”.
The government has launched an endowment fund, and selected a committee to supervise the use of the fund. Known as “Apiate Support Fund” is expected to mobilize funds from individuals and organizations to reconstruct Apiate township. Hon. Samuel Abu Jinapor launched it and named Rev. Dr. Joyce Aryee as chairperson.
We want to believe that the Environmental Protection Authority will assess the soil of the area and determine its quality. (We know of more than 10, 000 people affected by thyroid cancer, the effect of the Chernobyl (Ukraine) explosion which resulted from radiation exposure. Potassium nitrate or cyanide spilled over an area can have a long-lasting effect on the soil of the area. The effect of fire set to a warehouse full of agro-chemicals in the Cornubia area of Durban, South Africa -the effluent flowing into the river systems led to the deaths of riverine and marine creatures, plus birth defects of pregnant mothers.
Let us know the gesture of Chirano Mines, the owners of the toxic materials who posted a profit of over US $ 2 million last year. We think they have a duty of care.
For the couple whose wedding was cancelled on Sunday as announced by Senior Pastor Rev Derrick Eshun, to the nagging wife whose husband chose to play draught, to the distraught school children, and to all the victims of the accident/incident we say: “Take heart, we are with you in spirit”.
From Africanus Owusu-Ansah