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Ghana: Grief and anger after deadly gas station blasts

Social media users express sadness and anger after latest gas station blast in Accra kills at least seven people.

Ghana's capital, Accra

A huge tanker explosion near a gas station in Ghana's capital, Accra, that killed at least seven people and injured scores has sparked an outpouring of sadness and anger in the country.

The blaze 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 a giant fireball into the sky and local residents fleeing.

The head of the Ghana Standards Authority, Alex Dodoo, on Sunday said there had been eight gas explosions in four years, including in June 2015, when a similar fire and explosion at a petrol station in Accra killed more than 100 people.

In December last year, a gas tanker caught fire in another residential area of Accra, creating a fireball that caused five deaths and damaged a nearby school.

"This is a time for concrete action," Dodoo was quoted as saying by Citi FM radio after Saturday's incident. "Fixing it and making sure that it doesn't happen again is a responsible thing to do."

'Back and forth'

President Nana Akufo-Addo took to Twitter to offer his condolences, and said his "government is resolved, now more than ever, to ensure such an incident does not occur again".

Akufo-Addo said cabinet ministers will meet on Thursday and will likely come out with a "comprehensive programme" and policy to prevent future explosions.

"I would like everybody involved in the industry to recognise we will all have to make adjustments to be able to guarantee the safety and the security of our people so these things do not happen again," he said.

But the OccupyGhana pressure group feared nothing would change once the messages of condolences and anger passed.

"One would have thought that after the June 3 (2015) disaster there would have been a massive clampdown on how filling stations are sited in residential areas," the group's spokesman, Nana Sarpong Agyeman-Badu, told AFP.

"We have not really done much or learnt anything. We all go back to sleep and the issue will come back up again, we will talk about it then go back to sleep.

"I am pretty sure in the next couple of weeks we will see back and forth - people going around shutting down filling stations - and then we go back to as we were."

'Time bomb'

Social media users reacted to the news by mostly posting messages of support and prayers, with some, however, blaming the government for not doing enough to prevent such explosions, especially after the massive blast two years ago. 

As outraged Ghanaians took to social media to express concerns about the safety of filling stations, some said that people were ignoring existing regulations or paying bribes to secure permits to build filling stations in areas where they should not be, including near schools, hospitals and businesses. 

Civil servants who handle applications "should also be made to answer questions (about) how these people are able to get the permits", said OccupyGhana's Sarpong Agyeman-Badu.

Dominic Osei, a local businessman, said there were too many natural gas filling stations near petrol stations.

"All of them too are flammable," he said. "So, as soon as there is a small or a lighter mistake, then ... there will be a disaster in the country."

Meanwhile, a new petition addressed to Akufo-Addo demanded better regulation and inspection of existing and proposed facilities, including siting them 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."


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