At least 17 people were killed and 59 injured in a devastating blast in a western Ghana town on Thursday after a truck carrying explosives intended for a mine collided with a motorbike, the government said.
The explosion left a huge crater and reduced dozens of buildings to piles of wood and metal covered in dust in Apiate, near the town of Bogoso, about 300 kilometers west of Accra, the country’s capital. rich in West African minerals.
AFP-verified footage showed residents rushing towards a raging fire and plumes of black smoke to inspect the damage, while rescuers waded through the rubble to find survivors caught in the devastation and retrieve bodies without life.
“A total of 17 people have unfortunately been confirmed dead and 59 injured have been rescued,” Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said in a statement released overnight.
According to the minister, the first signs indicate “an accident involving a truck transporting explosive materials for a mining company, a motorcycle and a third vehicle” which occurred near an electrical transformer.
Of 59 people injured, 42 are being treated in hospitals or health centers and “some are in critical condition”, Nkrumah added.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo called it a “truly sad, unfortunate and tragic incident” and expressed “deep condolences to the families of those who died”.
Officials and eyewitnesses described a desolate scene against the sea of collapsed or deteriorated buildings in the carnage.
“It’s Black Thursday. So far, 500 houses have been affected. Some have been completely flattened by the blast while others have developed cracks,” coordinator Sedzi Sadzi Amedonu told AFP. deputy of the National Disaster Management Organization.
“It’s almost like a ghost town now.”
Abena Mintah, who saw the explosion, told local media that the driver of the truck fell from his tailgate, shouting at those nearby to warn them to get away from the burning vehicle.
“Within minutes we heard a loud bang. I got dizzy and fell into the bush. I managed to get up and saw a few dismembered bodies in the street,” Mintah said.
The government said those in critical condition would be transferred to hospitals in Accra, and police told surrounding villages to open their schools and churches to accommodate any additional victims.
A team of police and military blast experts have been deployed to “prevent a second blast” and put in place post-blast safety measures, the government said in a statement.
“The community has disappeared”
Emergency services were due to provide an update on the casualties at 11 a.m. (1100 GMT) on Friday.
Dr Isaac Dasmani, chief executive of Prestea Huni-Valley municipality where the blast happened, told local media that “the whole community left” after the blast.
“All the roofs were ripped off, some buildings collapsed. Some were in their rooms and were trapped. Unfortunately, some of them, before we could save them, were already gone,” he said. on the Ghanaian television channel TV3.
Authorities created an access route to the scene and were working to open roads Friday to ease traffic around the blast site, he said.
Ghana has been rocked by several deadly explosions caused by fuel accidents in recent years.
In 2017, at least three people were killed and dozens injured after a tanker carrying natural gas caught fire in Accra, triggering explosions at two gas stations and killing three people.
Ghana’s capital was the scene of a similar fire and explosion in June 2015, when more than 150 people died while seeking shelter from seasonal rains and flooding at a gas station. The fire is believed to have spread through fuel on floodwaters.
Fatal accidents linked to the mining sector are also frequent in Ghana, Africa’s second largest gold producer after South Africa, but they are mainly caused by the collapse of mines, often illegal.
In June, at least nine people died in the collapse of an illegal mine in northern Ghana.