Published On: Thu, Nov 8th, 2012

Melcom shop collapse in Ghana: More survivors found

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More survivors have been pulled out of the rubble of a multi-storey department store that collapsed in Ghana’s capital, Accra, on Wednesday.

The BBC’s Sammy Darko reports from the scene that he can see the hands of three people under the rubble, as rescuers desperately try to reach them.

Police said 69 people have been pulled out alive so far while the death toll has risen to nine.

President John Dramani Mahama has declared the area a disaster zone.

He has suspended his campaign for next month’s election.

‘Pregnant women trapped’

He cut short a visit to northern Ghana on Wednesday, and visited the site of the collapsed Melcom store in Accra’s upmarket Achimota neighbourhood.

He said he had ordered an investigation into why the building, which opened earlier this year, collapsed.

“Whoever is responsible for this negligence will pay a price,” Mr Mahama said in comments posted on his website.

He acknowledged that the government did not enforce safety standards when high-rise structures were built.

“We are going to put in place mechanisms to check the safety and security of other high-rise buildings and find out if there aren’t any more such disasters waiting to happen,” Mr Mahama said.

A spokeswoman for Ghana’s National Disaster Management Organization, Kate Adobaya, said structural weakness had caused the collapse, AP news agency reports.

“The foundation was not good enough,” she said.

Police spokesman Rojo Mettle-Nunoo told the BBC that rescue teams have so far pulled out 78 people from beneath the debris – nine of them dead and 69 alive.

It is not clear known many people are still trapped, he said.

A team of 18 Israelis is due to arrive later on Thursday to help the rescue effort.

“The team will make an initial assessment of the site using special equipment and sniffer dogs that will help identify the locations of possible survivors or corpses,” Mr Mahama said.

Our correspondent says noises can still be heard from under the rubble.

He can see the hands of three people, but he does not know whether they are alive.

Rescuers are trying to get to them, our correspondent says.

He says two pregnant women are also feared trapped.

Their relatives are at the site, crying and searching for them.

‘Run for my life’

A crowd of about 1,500 has gathered, despite Vice-President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur appealing to them on Wednesday to disperse because they were hampering rescue efforts.

Mr Amissah-Arthur is co-ordinating rescue efforts.

He said the building had collapsed shortly before the Melcom store was due to open for business on Wednesday.

The company said it had closed all its stores in Accra on Thursday as a mark of respect for the dead.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Melcom said it had rented the building which housed its Achimota branch on a 10-year lease.

“This is indeed a very tragic incident,” it said.

Our reporter says customers often queue outside the store before it opens.

Eyewitness Ama Okyere told the AFP news agency she was very close to the shopping centre when the building came down.

“I had to run for my life. I was so terrified. I believe there are lots of people trapped under this because this is a heavily patronised shopping mall in the area.”

(BBC News)

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