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25.01.2005 General News

Fire Officer calls for more water hydrants

By GNA

Accra, Jan. 25, GNA - Tuesday morning's devastating fire at the Tema Station Market in Accra that razed parts of the market has once again brought to the fore the question of the location of water hydrants across the country, particularly in the cities.

The Greater Accra Regional Operation Fire Officer, Mr Michael Collins Gabianu, sang a familiar song when he urged the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) to establish water hydrants around approved public places to help them to combat fire outbreaks.

If that were done, he said, GWCL would be fulfilling part of its mandate and also helping to ease the stress the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) went through in mobilizing fire tenders to fire scenes.

Mr Gabianu explained that the location of such hydrants, particularly at markets, lorry parks and in and around the communities, would enable Fire Officers to get easy access to water when they ran out of water at a fire scene, thus making their work easier. Mr Gabianu said this in an interview with the Ghana News Agency when he led a team of Fire Officers accompanied by four fire tenders to the Tema Station Market to help put out a fierce fire that has gutted part of the Market.

The fierce fire, which started around 0350 on Tuesday, has destroyed goods worth millions of cedis.

The cause of the fire, which is yet to be ascertained, has burnt most of the wooden stalls where traders sold their wares. It took the GNFS more than four hours to bring the fierce fire under control.

Mr Gabianu said there were a few water hydrants around the city, but most of them had been sealed up by the GWCL, which claimed that members of the public and institutions like the GNFS stole water from them and resold them to the public.

He dismissed the assertion that the GNFS stole water saying occasionally they drew water from some hydrants to donate to hospitals and schools as part of "our humanitarian services".

Mr Gabianu expressed worry over the wrong public perception that Fire Officers often went to fire scenes with empty tenders, saying that was a rather unfortunate perception.

"How could a farmer go to the farm without a cutlass or a hoe?" he asked, saying that most of the tenders were filled to the brim at the stations and were moved out as and when they received a distress message of fire outbreak.

Fire Officers drawn from the Industrial Area, Dansoman, Trade Fair and Accra City Fire Stations brought the fire under control around 0900 hours.

Items destroyed in the fire included second-hand clothes, shoes, foodstuff, electrical and electronic goods and a hairdressing salon. The lively atmosphere at the Tema Station on Tuesday turned into that of mourning as traders, who came to the scene wailed and shed tears as most of them have lost all their items in the fire. The tearful traders, who lost their wares, were wondering why the disaster occurred.

Uncontrollable tears were running down their faces while personnel of the GNFS were making frantic efforts to quench the smouldering fire. Some of them remained speechless while others were shouting

"Ewurade! Ewurade! Aden na wa ye yen saa?" literally meaning "My God, My God, Why have you done this to us? And "Ma wu! Ma wie!' "I am dead! I am finished!

Mr Stanley Nii Adjiri Blankson, Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Chief Executive and Mr Henry Nii Lante Plange, Metro Coordinator of the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), also came to the scene to see the extent of the damage and to console the victims.

Speaking to GNA Mr Blankson said AMA regarded the place as a lorry station and not a market and described the victims as squatters, who were allowed to trade to enable them to make a livelihood.

He said the AMA could not stop people from migrating to the city to make a living adding that AMA would see to the clearance of the debris and later invite the Leadership of the Tema Station Traders Association and find out what could be done.

Mr Stephen Anyan, Secretary of the Tema Station Traders Association, said there were about 5,000 traders in the market comprising chop bar and communication centre operators and petty traders, who kept their wares in three warehouses all of which were burnt down.

He said the traders got their electricity supply from a single-phase meter.

Mr Anyan appealed to non-governmental organisations, individuals and the Government to come to their aid "to assist us to be on our feet again".

Items destroyed in the fire include second-hand clothes, shoes, foodstuff, electrical and electronic goods and a hairdressing salon. Speaking to the GNA Mr Samuel Yankey, Greater Accra Regional Fire Officer, said the Fire Service received a telephone on the incident around 0400 hours.

He said his outfit was able to mobilise four fire engines and moved to the Tema Station where the fire was blazing.

Mr Yankey said the GNFA would conduct investigations into the cause of the fire.

He advised traders, especially those who cook at the markets, to be careful with naked fire.

The Regional Chief Fire Officer called on the City Authorities to take bold action against the haphazard development of markets in the country.

Ms Doris Ameko, a victim, told the GNA, that she lost her salon filled electrical appliances worth about 18 million cedis to the fire. Ms Ameko said she lost money being the daily income she kept in the burnt down salon.

The atmosphere at the Tema Station has turned into that of mourning as traders, who came to the scene wailed and shed tears as most of them said they had lost all their working capital.

The tearful traders, who lost their wares, were wondering why the disaster occurred.

Uncontrollable tears were running down their faces while personnel of the GNFS were making frantic efforts to quench the smouldering fire. Some of them remained speechless while others were shouting:

"Ewurade, Ewurade, aden na wa ye yen saa?" literally meaning - My God, My God, Why have you done this to us and "Ma wu o! Ma wie o! - "I am dead, I am finished."

Akua, a Cosmetics Dealer, who could not believe that all her wares were gone told the GNA: "I would not cry because weeping would not bring my things back" but before she could finish the sentence, she broke down in tears.

Afia, who deals in baby clothes, was weeping and shouting: "Ogyefo wo hen?" meaning "Who would see me through this?" She had to be shepherded away by friends and sympathizers.

Joyce Owusu, a student who had come to the market with her mother to collect her school fees, could not control her tears. Meanwhile personnel of the Police Service are at the scene to prevent thieves from taking advantage of the situation.

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