Over 250 killed in 10 yrs from LPG explosions

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 – Prez Akufo-Addo assures of tough reforms

THE utter failure on the part of state regulatory institutions to clampdown on the haphazard siting of gas filling stations in residential areas had led to the death of over 250 people between 2007 and now.

This is made up deaths from domestic gas explosions, as well as explosions at gas filling stations.
The latest incident, which occurred last Saturday at the Mansco gas filling station at Atomic Junction, near Madina, claimed seven lives.
Over 250 killed by gas explosions
It is estimated that about 255 persons died from reported cases involving Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) explosions between 2007 and 2015.
June 3 twin disaster killed 159
The most dangerous is tagged as the June 3 twin disasters which happened in 2015 and claimed 159 lives due to a flood and fire disaster at a GOIL filing station at Circle in Accra.
96 Killed 
Before the June 3 twin disasters, estimates indicate that about 96 people were killed since 2007.
2016: Trade Fair gas explosion killed 12
In 2016, 12 people died from gas expositions at the Louis Gas Liquefied Petroleum Gas Refilling Plant at La, Accra.
2016: Bole gas explosion killed 6
In August 28, 2016, six people died from gas explosion at Tinga in the Bole District of the Northern Region.
LPG explosion accounts for 44% deaths from burn cases annually
According to the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Centre, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) explosions account for 33% of all burns cases reported in the country every year.
Out of an average of 300 burns cases recorded yearly, LPG explosion accounts for 44% of the mortality rate, a situation he describes as worrying since most of the accidents were preventable.
2017: Atomic Junction explosion killed 7
Dozens got injured, mostly suffering burns, after a huge explosion at a fuel distribution site following the offloading of gas from a tanker at the Mansco gas filling station.
As of the time of filing this report yesterday, a statement from the Ministry of Information said at least seven people died and 132 were injured.
64 Injured persons discharged
According to the release, 64 injured persons have been treated and discharged.
68 Injured persons still receiving treatment
However, 68 other injured victims were still receiving treatment.
The blast on Saturday evening was heard across much of the eastern part of Accra.
Fireball in the sky
The blast sent a giant fireball into the sky above, causing frightened residents to flee their homes in large numbers. 
The fire brought in its wake huge explosions, which were sighted in areas like Legon, Dome, Achimota and Spintex.
Residents flee
Residents in and around Madina New Road and Madina Zongo were temporarily rendered homeless as they had to flee for their dear lives. 
Legon, UPSA, PRESEC students flee
Students of the University of Ghana, University of Professional Studies (UPSA) Accra and the Presbyterian Boys Senior High School (PRESEC) were not spared either as they had to rush out to safety.
Some of the students were evacuated to the Institute of Chartered Accountants’ building at Bawaleshie while others were sent to the Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon.
Huge traffic
The incident caused a huge traffic and chaos on the roads leading to the scene, with most drivers and passengers having to abandon their vehicles to run for their dear lives.
Pungent odour saves lives
Witnesses told the media that the pungent odour of gas made people to flee the area ahead of the blast, a factor that likely reduced casualties. 
Traders abandon wares
Traders selling on tables and in kiosks near the scene of the accident abandoned their wares.
Fruits and broken coconuts from street vendors were strewn near the wreckage, next to burnt-out cars and a fuel lorry.
Ghanaians angry about utter failures
Several onlookers at the scene of the incident, as well as many Ghanaians expressed anger that despite several incidents in the past, governments have not done more to prevent another fatal accident in the city.
Cause not established
The cause of the gas explosion, which extended to the Total filling station close by, had not been established as investigations are still ongoing.
Dr Bawumia visits victims
Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who yesterday visited the scene of the accident and went to hospitals to console the victims and their families, decried the growing spate of gas explosions in the country, hinting of government’s plans to speedily institute wide-ranging reforms to deal with disasters of all forms.
He visited some hospitals that received the casualties, including the Legon, 37 Military, Ridge and the Police hospitals, and extended condolences to the bereaved families, and also wished those who had been injured speedy recovery.
He said it was unacceptable that within three years, as many as eight disastrous gas explosions had occurred in the country.
“It’s a sad day for Ghana; Saturday’s event was very tragic…It is a major tragedy; at the end of the day, this is one too many. And I think what Ghanaians really want is a solid policy to deal with this matter once and for all,” Vice-President Bawumia said. 
“We are going to move to deal with it…we owe it to the country, and the government is going to take this very seriously,” he said.
He added, “We wouldn’t pre-empt anything, but some new policies would come in, and those who would try to resist this new policies would not be listened to, because it is important for us to put the safety of our people above anything else.
“And I think it is in the interest of the country that we implement some new policy directions. We are going to move quite quickly to do it…it is not going to be one that you wait weeks for it to happen…it’s going to happen relatively quickly,” he said.
The Vice-President highly commended the security services, the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and the health services for the timely intervention and devotion to duty that brought the situation quickly under control.
Dr Bawumia was accompanied by a number of Ministers of State, comprising Defence Minister, Mr Dominic Nititwul; Interior Minister, Mr Ambrose Dery; Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Madam Gloria Akufo; Minister of State in charge of Education, Prof Kwesi Yankah; Energy Minister, Mr Boakye Agyarko; Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof Frimpong Boateng; as well as security service chiefs.
Deputy Ministers of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and Perry Okudzeto, and some other high-ranking government officials, as well as the Inspector General of Police also took part in the visit.
Failures by institutions
Ghanaians have consistently called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Town and Country Planning Department (TCPD), Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) and Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) to take a second look at the zoning areas for LPG and fuel stations in the country.
According to some residents of Accra, it was about time the authorities concerned, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) and the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), took quick remedial actions before a major disaster occurred.
Even though there is a guideline that regulates the siting of such services, violations of the regulations by fuel and LPG station owners and some recalcitrant people who build so close to the facilities are exposing the lives of the public to danger. 
The practice is particularly widespread in Accra and other regional capitals where the stations are built very close to homes, shops, churches, offices and even refuse dumps.
“When proponents who have existing facilities come and the land size is not up to the minimum required for LPG — 0.5 acre — a special condition is given for them to either acquire additional land to make up for the 0.5 acres or relocate within five years.
Proposed cylinder exchange programme
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) outlets will no longer be allowed to refill cylinders at their plants under a comprehensive national policy aimed at halting gas explosions at gas filling outlets. Under the policy, soon to be rolled out by the Ministry of Energy, all cylinders will be filled by cylinder bottling plants, for onward delivery to retail outlets.
What this means is that individuals, restaurants and organisations that use LPG cylinders will now go to LPG retail outlets with their empty cylinders, pick up filled ones and pay for them upfront. 
The new method can be likened to the way some bottled drinks are sold in Ghana.
Fear grips new plan
However, the plan is facing opposition as industry players are worried that foreigners with huge capital will be offered licenses to setup what the government called professionally operated LPG refill plants in urban and peri-urban areas.
They say under this plan, hundreds of millions of cedis invested by Ghanaians operating LPG refill stations, as well as LPG importers will go down the drain while hundreds of employees will also become jobless.

By Elvis DARKO, Accra

ABOUT: Nana Kwesi Coomson

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A Freelance Journalist, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist. Editor-in-Chief of www.233times.com. A contributory writer for Ghanaian Chronicle Newspaper. An alumnus of Adisadel College where he read General Arts. He holds first degree in Bachelor of Arts from the University of Ghana; Political Science (major) and History (minor). He has also pursued MSc Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Energy with Public Relations (PR) at the Robert Gordon University in the United Kingdom. His mentors are Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffet, Sam Jonah, Kwaku Sakyi Addo and Piers Morgan

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