Anger in Ghana after four die in fuel station fire, blasts
Accra (AFP) - Ghanaians on Sunday pushed the government to improve safety at fuel stations after four people were killed when a tanker truck carrying natural gas caught fire in the nation's capital, triggering explosions.
The fire and blasts gutted a liquefied gas filling station and a nearby petrol station in the Atomic Junction area of the Legon suburb of Accra on Saturday night, sending local residents fleeing.
President Nana Akufo-Addo tweeted: "The news of last night's gas explosion at Atomic Junc, resulting in the loss of 4 lives & injuries to several others, has left me devastated.
"My deepest condolences to the families of the bereaved, and I wish the injured speedy recovery."
Vice-President Mahamadu Bawumia was visiting the scene of the tragedy on Sunday, Akufo-Addo said, adding: "Government is resolved, now more than ever, to ensure such an incident does not occur again."
Ghana National Fire Service spokesman Billy Anaglate said earlier that two of the victims died at the scene of the incident and the third in hospital. There were also 35 injured and five were in intensive care overnight.
One of those who died was killed after jumping from a flyover at the busy Atomic Junction roundabout, where there are three fuel stations, transport services and restaurants.
It is also near a high school and the University of Ghana campus.
The country's deputy minister of information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said the government deployed about 12 fire trucks and 200 police personnel to cordon off the scene and manage traffic.
"A lot of people quickly rushed away, which is what saved a lot of lives but also caused a lot of panic," he told AFP.
Fire crews were still at the scene on Sunday morning, damping down the stricken tanker with water. A number of cars and a minibus near the site were burned out.
Ghana's capital was the scene of a similar fire and explosion at a petrol station in June 2015 which killed more than 150.
In May this year, scores of people were injured when a tanker discharging natural gas exploded in the western city of Takoradi.
The latest incident sparked outrage among some Ghanaians on social media about the safety of filling stations, many of which are located near schools, hospitals and businesses.
A petition was created addressed to Akufo-Addo, demanding better regulation and inspection of existing and proposed facilities. Nearly 1,500 people had signed it by late morning on Sunday.
Proposals include siting filling stations at least 50 metres from homes and 100 metres from schools and hospitals.
Abena Awuku, a Ghanaian living in the Netherlands, proposed the measures on the change.org site, saying fuel stations were "all disasters waiting to happen and the time to act is now".
"There was a similar incident two years ago and we were fed lies and empty promises about regulations going to be put in place but then we had to witness this," she told AFP later.
"These deaths could have easily been prevented, so let's prevent them from ever occurring again in the future."
Nkrumah said regulations already existed about the siting of fuel stations but the initial focus of the authorities was taking care of those injured in the incident.
"There's an investigation that's starting. It will determine whether it's a failure of regulations, it's an accident or something else," he added.