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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Anger in Ghana after at least six die in fuel station fire and blasts

President Nana Akufo-Addo said on Twitter that the government was 'resolved, now more than ever, to ensure such an incident does not occur again'

The wreckage left behind after a tanker lorry caught fire at a liquefied gas filling station in the Atomic Junction area of the Legon suburb of Accra, pictured on October 8, 2017. Francis Kokoroko / Reuters
The wreckage left behind after a tanker lorry caught fire at a liquefied gas filling station in the Atomic Junction area of the Legon suburb of Accra, pictured on October 8, 2017. Francis Kokoroko / Reuters

Ghanaians on Sunday pushed the government to improve safety at fuel stations after at least six people were killed when a tanker lorry carrying natural gas caught fire in the nation's capital, triggering explosions.

The fire 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 local residents fleeing.

"As we speak, six people are dead due to this fire," said Ghana National Fire Service spokesman Billy Anaglatey, adding that 35 others had been injured. Four of the 35 are in critical condition.

The cause of the fire and subsequent explosions is being investigated, said Mr Anaglatey.

President Nana Akufo-Addo said on Twitter that the government was "resolved, now more than ever, to ensure such an incident does not occur again".

"The news of last night's gas explosion at Atomic Junc, resulting in the loss of 4 lives & injuries to several others, has left me devastated," he tweeted before the casualty figures rose.

"My deepest condolences to the families of the bereaved, and I wish the injured speedy recovery."

Vice president Mahamadu Bawumia was visiting the scene of the tragedy on Sunday, Mr Akufo-Addo added.

One of those who died was killed after jumping from a flyover at the busy Atomic Junction roundabout, where there are three fuel stations, transport services and restaurants.

The roundabout also lies near a high school and the University of Ghana campus.

The country's deputy minister of information, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said the government deployed about 12 fire engines and 200 police personnel to cordon off the scene and manage traffic.

"A lot of people quickly rushed away, which is what saved a lot of lives but also caused a lot of panic," he added.

Fire crews were still at the scene on Sunday morning, damping down the stricken tanker with water. A number of cars and a minibus near the site were burnt out.

Ghana's capital was the scene of a similar fire and explosion at a petrol station in June 2015 which killed more than 150.

In May this year, scores of people were also injured when a tanker discharging natural gas exploded in the western city of Takoradi.

The latest incident sparked outrage among some Ghanaians on social media about the safety of filling stations, many of which are located near schools, hospitals and businesses.

A petition was created addressed to Mr Akufo-Addo, demanding better regulation and inspection of existing and proposed facilities. Nearly 1,500 people had signed it by late morning on Sunday.

Proposals include siting filling stations 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 Agence France-Presse later.

"These deaths could have easily been prevented, so let's prevent them from ever occurring again in the future."

Mr Nkrumah said regulations already existed about the siting of fuel stations but that the initial focus of the authorities was taking care of those injured in the incident.

"There's an investigation that's starting. It will determine whether it's a failure of regulations, it's an accident or something else," he added.