Post-Atomic Explosion: A rallying cry for overhaul of overpass

“Did you come by way of Atomic Junction,” she asked when I got down at my bus stop at Adjei-Mensah near Wisconsin University College in North Legon, about 400 meters away from the Atomic Junction explosion ground zero. “Yes, I did,” I answered. “And it was free of the usual traffic,” I added. “As for me I will never use that side,” she expressed her fears. “That overhead [road] has to be pulled down and re-constructed. Even my sons at our home felt the quake [from the explosion], how much more a bridge so close to the gas station?” My neighbour has not been the only one who has expressed similar concerns about the overhead bridge at Atomic Junction. Many have said same and think engineers must be deployed to the site to test the solidity of the overpass after the explosion. I visited the site on the morning of Sunday, October 15, exactly eight days after the deadly explosion. [caption id="attachment_64830" align="alignnone" width="567"] All combustibles around the explosion site have been destroyed[/caption] Officially, seven persons lost their lives though others literally lost their breath after having run long distances to escape the ‘chasing’ fire. One of the dead was a cameraman with Net 2 Television, one of the media firms of Kencity Media Ghana Limited. The late Mohammed Ashiley Yakubu is reported to have fallen to his death from the overpass, where he was capturing the incipient stage of the explosion from. I was shown the spot he was standing to take the shot. Was it a case of tremor of the infrastructure that pushed him down? “Yes. The second blast was very intense,” Kofi Takyi, a security man at Atomic Junction, said. “Look, I ran up till [the Madina-Zongo mosque] and could still feel the heat,” added Kofi Takyi, who saw the leakage of the gas from the tanker, said. “You ran but you feel being dragged backwards by the fire.”

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Listen to Kofi Takyi’s account of the deadly explosion:
He was quick to add that the whole infrastructure needs to be overhauled. “I don’t think this roundabout has served its purpose. There is always gridlock traffic here,” he told me in local language Twi. “Even the tankers which bring gas and fuel to the stations here find it difficult to turn at the [Atomic Junction] roundabout,” he said. “How can they build a road whose pavement is larger than the street?” he mocked. ‘Chichinga seller not to blame’ Kofi Takyi was helping a coconut seller, who had returned to pick up the bits and pieces from his produce. Synn, as he told me he is called, said he has not been outdoors since the incident on Saturday, October 7 as a result of damage to his eyes. He has not visited any health facility since then as he complains everything he had – including his money – was burnt. He said while escaping from the blast, some of the sparks entered his eyes. [caption id="attachment_64828" align="alignnone" width="566"] Another fuel station opposite the explosion site has been opened for business, a week after the disaster[/caption] But he was much more concerned about the compensation to be given to the affected traders. An emergency post was mounted by the National Disaster Management Organisation (Nadmo) to audit the damaged items. “When I went [to the emergency post], I was told someone had registered as the seller of coconut,” he complained to me. “This cannot happen. I have to be compensated. Even Nigeriens have been registered to be compensated.” Curious to know who were the Nigeriens, I probed further. Some of them sold grilled meat – popularly known as chichinga – at the bus station, the coconut seller mentioned. The cause of the fire has been traced to the chichinga seller, who has since been picked up to aid investigations, I was told. But Synn says the seller’s arrest was wrongful. “He is not to blame,” he protested. “This is a disaster caused by the leakage of gas. If those at the gas station had performed their duties well, there would not have been the explosion.”
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He said of the overhead: “I think they should come and check the overpass because the intensity of the fire where I got to and this overhead [road] still in place give [me] cause to worry”. I proceeded to find out more from a civil engineer about the state of an overpass like that at Atomic Junction after such a disaster. “Well, there could be some damages to it but a crack search needs to be carried out first,” said Samuel Ayitevie of AS Consult. He recommended a forensic test of the overhead road for possible fission left by the explosion. “I was taken aback when I saw scores of people on the overpass watching happenings on the [Sun]day after the disaster. It could have been worse. Even their weight may have had an effect on the bridge. So, the civil engineers must act now before a disaster occurs in the near future.” As to whether authorities will heed to this call or not is a matter of time. But one cannot turn a blind eye to the physical damage made to every plastic-coated material in the precincts of the explosion and definitely the bridge may have had its toll but the extent of damage and whether the damage requires a second look at the overhead intersection is what the experts have to do pronto. By Emmanuel Kwame Amoh||Ghana ]]>