CONTRIBUTED: June 3, 2015 started as another typical day in Ghana. Yet as unexpected rains took over, supported by fires started by an unknown reason, several lives and happiness of the Ghanaian people were taken.
The rains start in June and last until September. So, it was no surprise to Ghanaians when it began to pour everywhere non-stop. Flooding becomes common, especially in slum areas with poor drainage systems, which Ghana is known for.
The day started normally, with people going about their businesses. Children went to school; mothers kept house and rushed to the market; fathers headed to work; everyone followed their daily routine. Morning faded into afternoon and in the evening, the sky darkened with the sunset. Then the signs of rain formed with dark clouds all around, accompanied by windstorms. Ghanaians love rain, but not storms. So, everyone rushed in their endeavors to avoid the unknown implications of the oncoming storm.
A small family, the Yakubus, live in the fast growing, busy, and unsafe town of Kasoa in central Ghana. The family of five includes a mother, a father, two daughters, and a niece from the mother’s family. They became worried when it was about to rain since their room gets flooded due to the room’s settlement and the muddy, waterlogged land it was built on. They got home, safeguarded their room, and got ready to scoop out water when the room flooded. Despite the amount of rain in their part, it rained much more in Ghana’s capital of Accra.
In Accra, the heavy down pour was not the only thing to worry about. A fuel station in one of the busiest parts of the city called the Nkrumah Circle was on fire, worsening the situation. This is where the whole tragedy started.
The fire began unnoticed due to the rain. Somehow, the rain did not cool down or put out the fire, but instead intensified due to the location and contact with fuel. People were confused as to what to do. Swim? Drown? Stand? Die? There seemed to be no way out. Soon, the fire spread to the surrounding area. Nowhere close by was safe for people. To make matters worse, everywhere was flooded and lights were out. Total darkness.
The incident continued on for five hours, with people struggling for their lives te entire time. Although it happened in just a small portion of the country, its effects were felt throughout. Swimming was not an option as there was fire everywhere, in and on top of the rainwater. People were both wet and burned.
After several hours of struggling, the ambulance and security services assembled to help transport victims to hospitals for emergency treatment. The police made statements on how to help track families of the dead victims and the severely injured. This incident, after police investigations and public outcry, indicated that about 200-300 lives were claimed in just one night.
Even though there were survivors, their lives are no longer the same. They have facial disfigurement, emotional trauma, health deterioration, psychological issues, and face financial crisis, among other things.
The whole country was affected by this tragic incident which was honored by a three-day mourning and holiday directive passed by the then-sitting president. Financial aid and compensations were given to affected families and victims by the government. The fuel station was sued by some victims and organizations for negligence. The country still remembers this day and reflects on it, to draw lessons from and make correction for the future.
Ghana, as a country, may never be able to recover from this tragic incident. 2015 was not a good year for Ghana. Other countries have experienced disasters as well. Samoa experienced a tsunami in 2009, Haiti suffered a terrible earthquake in 2010, a hurricane, tornado, and derecho for the USA. For Ghana it is the June 3rd disaster, and they echo “Never Again.”
IMAGE ATTRIBUTION: finnish eye, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons