THERE WAS chaos, wailing, and mourning last Saturday at the Bolgatanga Polytechnic, when the only hostel facility for both female and male students was gutted by fire. The one-storey building lecture hall was converted into a hostel facility, as a result of lack of hostel facilities for resident students of the polytechnic.
The fire started at about 1.00 p.m., when most of the students were watching television in their entertainment hall (Junior Common Room). Others had left the campus, to either spend the weekend with their families, friends, relations, or do some shopping.
Narrating the incident to The Chronicle, the Vice-Rector of the Polytechnic, Mr. Theophilus Azungah, said the fire started from the ground floor, Room 4, but before the attention of the students was drawn to it, it had already spread to other rooms, and was beyond their control.
While fighting the fire, a distress call was made to the Ghana National Fire Service in Bolgatanga. After only a few minutes of their arrival, the personnel of the service exhausted the water in their fire truck.
Though Mr. Azungah was grateful to the Fire Service for responding to their call, he lamented that the service in the region was handicapped, because they exhausted the water only a few minutes upon their arrival, and by the time they could go back to Bolgatanga to replenish the machine, seven rooms, and the Junior Common Room had been completely razed.
All the five hostel rooms belonging to the female students, and two belonging to the male students, were burnt to ashes.
When this reporter rushed to the scene, the fire service personnel were seen battling the fire, while the affected students watched helplessly, as their personal effects were destroyed with into thick smoke spewing into the sky.
The thick smoke engulfed the Sumbrungu community, where the polytechnic is located, thus drawing hundreds of villagers to the scene. Sumbrungu is about 11 kilometres away from Bolgatanga, the capital of the Upper East Region.
Victims of the fire outbreak said a room contained 20 students for the females, and 22 for their male counterparts. This means that about 144 students lost their hand-outs and vital documents, clothings, computers, cell phones, cooking utensils, mattresses and food items, among others, running into millions of cedis.
Mr. Azungah, flanked by the Dean of students, Mr. Oscar Avomah, and Mr. Emmanuel Akampaadgi, appealed to the agonized students to stay calm, as the authorities of the Polytechnic were putting up temporary measures to accommodate them.
He immediately released two workshops, one for the males and another for the females, for them to use as temporary sleeping places.
Arrangements were also made to provide them with food, until the authorities hold a meeting on Monday, February 23 to deliberate on the situation.
The polytechnic authorities expressed their appreciation to the GNFS, the Police Service, the local inhabitants, and the media, for their prompt response and support that helped to put out the fire.
Mr. Azungah appealed to the Ministry of Education, the Ghana Education Service, philanthropists, the National Disaster Management Organisation, Regional Coordinating Council and the Ghana Red Cross Society, to assist the polytechnic handle the situation.
The President of the Students' Representative Council (SRC), Solomon Awariya, could not come to terms with the disheartening situation.
He recalled all the renovation works and acquisition of entertainment gadgets that the council had recently made, but only to lose everything to the fire.
He said the council had spent over GH¢36,000 on these projects.
Both the polytechnic authorities and senior officers of the fire service could not immediately ascertain the cause of the fire, but Mr. Azungah said the polytechnic would constitute a committee to investigate the cause.