Regional News of 2014-02-27

Fire renders 500 jobless at Kumasi Central Market

More than 500 traders lost their sources of livelihood when an inferno engulfed sections of the Kumasi Central Market early Wednesday.

The fire, which began about 1:30 a.m., razed down about 300 shops and stalls, destroying food items, cosmetics, cloths, jewellery and wigs, among other items.

The affected traders, who could not control their emotions, broke down in tears.

Many of them wondered where they would be able to secure funds to either restart their businesses or pay the loans they had obtained from banks and other financial institutions for their trading activities.

Personnel of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) who responded to a distress call took four hours to bring the fire under control.

Lack of access to the market, caused by the haphazard nature of portions of the Kumasi Central Market, contributed to the inability of the firemen to douse the

flames in good time

Two fire engines could not enter the market because of lack of access roads. They had to be parked about 400 metres away from the scene of the fire for the firemen to use water hoses joined together to put out the fire.

While some of the traders were wailing, others praised the bravery of the firemen.

One fire officer, Mr Justice Acheampong, slipped, fell and got injured in the process and was rushed to the hospital.

No other casualties have been reported so far.

Number of fires

The latest fire outbreak is the fifth to have occurred at the Kumasi Central Market in three years.

There were fire outbreaks at the market on April 19, 2012, December 31, 2012, January 8, 2013 and June 16, 2013.

Victims

In separate interviews, some of the victims said if there had been free access, their wares would have been saved.

A food seller, Madam Mariama Siddique, said she was informed by some porters that the firemen could not reach her place early enough and that was why her shop burnt.

Briefing the Daily Graphic at the scene of the fire, Mr Philip Arhin-Mensah, the Ashanti Regional Fire Officer, said the GNFS received a distress call around 1.30 a.m. and rushed to the area immediately.

Although they got to the scene almost immediately, the disorganised nature of the place, coupled with serious congestion, made it extremely difficult for them to reach where the fire was.

Causes of fire

Although the fire-fighters believed that it was too early to pinpoint the cause of the fire, some of the traders attributed the disaster to either the embers left by women who usually cooked at the market or the bad electrical wiring.

Women whose wares were close to the fire scene but were spared the destruction were full of praise to God and the firemen.

Scrap dealers

Some scavengers who rushed to the scene as early as 3.30 a.m. to cash in on the situation to remove burnt metals, especially electrical wires, were nearly lynched by the shop owners.

Presidential action

Last year, after a series of fires in Accra, Takoradi, Tamale and Kumasi, committees were formed to investigate the various incidents.

Personnel of the GNFS also conducted audits at the various markets in Ghana.

Not satisfied with the findings, especially the increasing number of devastating fires, the government brought in fire experts from the United States to help with the investigations.

President John Mahama later stated that the investigations by the US experts into the fire at the Kumasi Central Market were inconclusive because people had gone to the site to destroy evidence before the experts arrived.

"The Kumasi one was inconclusive because by the time they got there people had gone in and destroyed much of the evidence and so they could not find anything concrete that they could use to investigate,” he said.

In 2013, about 4,500 traders were affected by market fires in both Kumasi and Accra. Their livelihoods were endangered, prompting the government to offer them assistance.

Recommendations

According to the Ashanti Regional Fire Officer, recommendations after each market fire outbreak had centred on the of easy access routes for fire engines to enter markets in cases of fire, the removal of all old and illegal wiring to electricity sources and the identification of fire hydrants.

Source: graphic.com.gh
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