Melcom shop collapse in Ghana: Negligence blamed

Scene at collapsed building in Accra, Ghana (7 November 2011) The government has declared the site a disaster zone

Related Stories

Faulty construction caused a multi-storey shopping centre to collapse in Ghana's capital, Accra, killing at least nine people, officials have said.

They say the building did not have the necessary permit and so had not had a safety inspection.

President John Dramani Mahama said those responsible for the "negligence will pay a price".

Rescue efforts are continuing, with 69 survivors pulled out from under the rubble since Wednesday, police said.

Mr Mahama suspended his campaign for next month's election, after the disaster at the Melcom store.

At the scene

There are about 1,500 people here - some of them have climbed roof tops and trees - trying to get a glimpse of the rescue operation.

It is far more organised than on Wednesday, when there was confusion, frustration and anger as people demanded to know how the shopping centre, which opened earlier this year, could have collapsed.

But the government managed to calm people, after promising an inquiry to establish whether poor building standards had caused the disaster.

I can see one man breaking down cement blocks with an axe, as rescuers clear the debris in order to create "wind passages" for people trapped underneath.

Deputy Health Minister Rojo Mettle-Nunoo is wearing a helmet and face mask, directing ambulances - like a traffic warden - as they rush survivors to hospitals in Accra.

He also ordered an investigation into why the building, in Accra's Achimota neighbourhood, collapsed.

A spokeswoman for Ghana's National Disaster Management Organization, Kate Adobaya, said structural weakness had caused the collapse, AP news agency reports.

"The foundation was not good enough," she is quoted as saying.

Police spokesman Freeman Tettey told the BBC that rescue teams have so far pulled out 78 people from beneath the debris - nine of them dead and 69 alive.

It is not known many people are still trapped, he said.

'Bad concrete mix'

An Israeli rescue team has arrived, using sniffer dogs to help locate people buried under the rubble.

The BBC's Akwasi Sarpong reports from the scene that the rescue operation is far more organised than on Wednesday, when there was confusion, frustration and anger as people demanded to know how the shopping centre, which opened earlier this year, could have collapsed.

Ghana Institution of Engineering Vice-President Magnus Quarshie told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that they were still carrying out their investigations into the disaster.

"However, looking at the debris, it shows workmanship was very, very poor," he said.

"We can tell the concrete mix was not to the specifications we require," the AFP news agency reports him as saying.

The scene of the collapsed Melcom building

The building "didn't have a permit, which means that AMA [Accra Municipal Authority] may not have assigned a building inspector," he said.

AMA Mayor Alfred Vanderpuye said officials had been carrying out checks for the past two years to identify buildings without permits, "but how we missed this one, we are going to find out", Ghana's Joy FM radio station reports.

Mr Mahama acknowledged, in comments posted on his website, that the government did not enforce safety standards when high-rise structures were built.

"We are going to put in place mechanisms to check the safety and security of other high-rise buildings and find out if there aren't any more such disasters waiting to happen," he said.

The Melcom Group of Companies, which has retail outlets across Ghana, said it had closed its stores on Thursday as a mark of respect for the dead.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Melcom said it had rented the building.

"This is indeed a very tragic incident," it said.

Mr Mahama has declared the area a disaster zone.

He cut short a trip to northern Ghana on Wednesday, where he was campaigning for the 7 December parliamentary and presidential elections.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Africa stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • planesEnd of the line

    The vast ‘boneyards’ that are home to thousands of aircraft that have come to end of their flying days

Programmes

  • A screenshot from Goat SimulatorClick Watch

    The goat simulator which started as a joke but became a surprising hit, plus other tech news

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.