17 feared burned to death, TOR insulated
Tema, March 25, GNA - At least 17 people, made up of 14 Ghanaians, a Guinean, a Greek and a Russian, who were carrying out repair works on a Greek-registered vessel, MV Polris, are feared dead on Friday in a ferocious fire that has completely destroyed the vessel and caused a disruption in fuel production at Tema Oil Refinery (TOR). Two other workers, who survived the fire disaster, Mr Stephen Quanson and James Kemawo, told the Ghana News Agency that all forms of communication to their vessel had not yielded any positive response. The two had come out to drink water before an explosion on board the vessel at the dry dock at PSC Tema Shipyard. "The vessel is totally lost and all human beings on board are feared dead,"
Prof. Mike Ocquaye, Energy Minister told the Ghana News Agency in an exclusive interview. He said both the receiving and sending points of supply of fuel were affected. This means TOR can neither receive nor supply fuel, hence the shutting down of the refinery. The Minister said TOR has been insulated from the fire because of a panel along the pipeline that carries the oil, adding that if the fire should affect that panel, it would have serious implications. Prof. Ocquaye said there had to be a serious investigation as to how the disaster occurred. He called on the public to remain calm as the matter is assessed and solutions are found.
Prof. Ocquaye has, meanwhile, asked the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) to shut down immediately to prevent the spread of the fire at the PSC Shipyard at Tema to its premises. The fire that was detected at about 1030 on Good Friday has affected the seawater-pumping house of the Refinery, which serves as a coolant while plumes of thick black smoke have filled the air. Prof. Ocquaye who was at the disaster scene told the Ghana News Agency that the fire had melted the VALCO conveyor belt in addition to a water pump.
He said the disaster had serious insurance implications hence the presence of representatives of the insurers of TOR to assess the situation critically. Prof. Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, Minister of Ports, Harbours and Railways said the government would set up a committee to investigate the cause of a disastrous fire that broke out on the ship at the Tema PSC Shipyard. Prof. Ameyaw-Akumfi said the Committee would comprise officials of the Ministries of Ports, Harbours and Railways, Energy and the Interior, he said.
Prof. Ameyaw-Akumfi said the government would make alternative arrangements to import fuel as the main pumping line of TOR has been damaged by the ferocious fire that has been raging out of control. As the fire rages out of control, the Minister of Health, Major (RTD) Courage Quashigah, who also rushed to the scene has sent SOS message to the public for assistance. Major Quashigah said he was contacting the Ghana Air Force, which has modern fire fighting equipment to assist. So ferocious is the fire that there are fears that other nearby vessels would be engulfed by the flame.
MV Polris had been undergoing maintenance work for the past three months. According to reliable sources, the fire was caused by spillage of oil from the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) pipeline that had been leaking for the past one week. Mr Stephen Quansah, a mechanic, told the GNA that he and his colleagues were working on the vessel in the morning when they heard an explosion. The fire was ignited when fire coming from repair works on the vessel caught the oil on the water. Personnel from the Ghana National Fire Service, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority and TOR are still battling to bring the fire under control.