By Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Kwasi Kpodo
ACCRA (Reuters) – An explosion at a petrol station in Ghana’s capital and flooding caused by torrential rains killed around 150 people, President John Mahama said on Thursday, marking the worst disaster to strike the West African country in more than a decade.
Around 96 people who sought shelter from floods overnight at the state-owned GOIL gas station near a busy downtown intersection were killed, authorities said. Thousands more were made homeless in the citywide flooding, officials said.
The incidents expose the weakness of Accra’s infrastructure which has failed to keep pace with population growth after years of rapid economic expansion. It is vulnerable to storms that wreak havoc as poor drainage leads to flooding.
Witnesses said low-wage workers struggling home through the seasonal storm with roads closed and minivan buses not running were victims of the blast, the force of which gave few a chance to escape.
“It was an explosive fire and so the people sheltering at the filling station did not have an opportunity to escape,” fire brigade spokesman Prince Billy Anaglate told reporters.
People were burned beyond recognition where they stood under the station’s awning, or trapped and incinerated in the wreckage of cars and minivans on the station’s forecourt.
A fuel leak at the station caused the accident that also destroyed nearby buildings, Mahama said, announcing three days of national mourning would begin on Monday as well as the creation of a 50 million cedis ($12 million) recovery fund.
It was Ghana’s single worst disaster since more than 120 people died in May 2001 in a stampede at the national stadium during a football match, a police spokesman said.
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