Eyewitness Report: Gas Explosion at Atomic Junction (Legon, Ghana)
Hey there. By now, the news of the gas explosion in Accra, Ghana has caught international attention. What I want to do in this article is to give you an eyewitness report of the incident. (Please excuse all typos. My battery’s super low. I’m trying to type all this before my phone goes off. Also, since I didn’t see everything, this may not be 100% accurate.)
The explosion happened at Legon — precisely Atomic Junction. I was in Baritas, a local restaurant, with my friend, Edem Segbedzi. We were working on a software development project. Just behind Baritas was the Benab filling station and within a very close region were 4 other fuel stations (I know people will disagree with me on this but keep reading till the end of this story). One of the waitresses got upset that some people had left the restaurant without paying for their food. She stepped out to confront them but never returned. Then, we were notified by one waiter of a gas tanker that was catching fire upon entering the filling station. (I think the tanker was coming into Benab — or the gas station opposite Benab. I didn’t spend so much time observing. A gas tanker was exploding for crying out loud.) We hurriedly evacuated the restaurant. I grabbed my laptop and my bag and headed out to see a really huge fire — and it was growing rapidly! The fire was being fed by a consistent flow of gas from the leaking tanker. Because I was not close to the tanker when the outbreak occurred, I can only speculate the cause of the fire. Some people said it was lightning — but that’s not true. Some people are just funny. Another funny one was that a khebab seller’s fire set the tanker ablaze — that might be true. But like I said, I can only speculate.
Edem and I crossed the street and began to tell our friends and loved ones of the incident. I managed to get a tweet out there to tell the internet about what was going on. I hope that has saved a few lives.
Just before the blast, a daring driver had just whizzed on the overhead close to the filling station despite the warnings from us pedestrians. Whatever or whoever he was trying to get to must have certainly been that important. Had he been a minute late, that driver would have been toast.
AND THEN IT BEGAN. The tanker exploded! The sound of the blast was really scary! We ran away from it. The distance we had initially covered was not enough. We finally managed to get about a mile away when the second blast happened! That must have been when the first of the fuel stations exploded. The blast was intense and glowing debris from the explosion began to rain on us even though we were far from it. Some of the debris even continued to travel through the sky, going ahead of us. I remember seeing it glow as it flew ahead of us. The whole place was in uproar.
Edem and I went further away from the blast. Nowhere seemed safe. The fire rumbled and it sounded like helicopters were in the air. For a minute I even thought that the fire service had come by air. But there were no aircraft in sight. The clouds were red. The sound of the fire seemed to get closer and closer and we had to keep moving away from it. And then the third blast happened! That must have been the last fuel station which exploded. It was seriously some Hiroshima-Nagasaki stuff. The whole sky lit up and it was as clear as midday. I looked back to see a big mushroom cloud. Around me, I could see people confused, frantic and panicky. Everywhere was chaotic. People ran out of their houses as the earth shook — some where half naked and butt naked. We went as far as we could until we had entered another town. I couldn’t even believe it myself but we did go that far. The amazing part of it was that although the adrenaline was fueling our speed, Edem and I were pretty much composed. I think that’s a great thing! Fear should never get the better of a person.
Thankfully I’m safe now. Reflecting on the whole incident, these are some factors I believe caused fire to really become a big deal:
The burning gas tanker on its own was bad enough. But it was surrounded by other fuel stations. There was also another filling station that was yet to be commissioned but I doubt it had a major role to play in the recursive explosions.
The fire service did well but they couldn’t have been there on site immediately. And even if they did, we would have lost good firefighters to the unsatisfied flames. On a call with my dad, he told me about how filling stations in Nigeria are able to curb such situations without the fire service needed to begin the fire quenching process. 10 points for Nigeria I guess.
It’s high time we revised how to handle fires at fuel stations. This explosion was just a catastrophe waiting to happen. Lots of times when I pass through Benab, I often see inappropriate operations taking place there especially with how its fuel reserves are handled. (But interestingly, Benab didn’t go down with the others.) We need to learn the lessons from this experience. You’d think that we’d learned from the explosion at Circle a few years ago but then look at where we are today. There is still hope for the future though.
Also, this is my first time experiencing this. All I could think about was the people I love. I find that very interesting. It seems I have a softer heart than I thought.
Edem and I are now safe and sound. We just had dinner and and chilling it out at his porch. I’m hoping to get back home tomorrow to take a quick shower before church and continue with life and work at Inflexion Cap.
Friends, you probably might want to believe in the divine factor just about now. Just this morning as I prayed, I began to have thoughts on how to handle a gas explosion — I’ve never had that thought in years! My friend, Linda from church shared the same experience with me as we had talks in the evening — for the first time today. Others have told me about how they were prompted by God to use alternate routes before they even got to know of the blast this evening. They normally charter vehicles to their houses from the bus stop at Benab. These aren’t gimmicks.
Nonetheless, I am convinced that beautiful things can come out of every catastrophe. Let’s see what grows out of this fire.