No! Asaase Yaa [mother earth] could not recently annoy me by shaking itself in some parts of the Greater Accra Region much more than National Disaster Management Organization’s [NADMO] hollow commentary on the incident— a commentary of vain Christmas message to persons living in earthquake-prone zones and Ghanaians at large.
“With the recent earth tremors happening, we caution the citizens to prepare for any imminent occurrence of earthquake disaster,” a statement signed by the Director General of NADMO, Eric Nana Agyemang-Prempeh cautioned.
The caution, I must say, is somehow welcoming as the earth tremor was frightening enough. It felt as though someone had the earth in their hands, rigorously shaking it left and right— the way a music quartet of the Seventh-day Adventists Church shake their maracas.
It was Sunday, December 9, 2018, and it was the tremor that woke me up from my slumber. The said earth tremor occurred with the swiftness of a duiker leaving residents of Kasoa-Nyanyanu and Weija— the most susceptible spots — and other areas in fear.
“Massa, what was that?” said a friend of mine, Oye Yaw Addofoh.
Oye Yaw Addofoh, publisher of the online news portal, The Probe, had visited me then and would enquire from me what that shake was when I woke up to see him already by his laptop.
“That’s certainly an earthquake,” I said.
“Really? Earthquake here?”
As the wave of shakeup could be felt even in Oyibi, Greater Accra, my area in Ga South had its fair share. This, when NADMO sends a caution that residents should be on the alert, is considerably good. However, it beats my imagination that NADMO sent out such a vague statement.
How do citizens “prepare for any imminent occurrence of earthquake disaster”? Are they to stand by their houses, go sit on top of their houses or abandon it all together?
Without mincing words, NADMO’s 2018 statement of a Christmas message to Ghanaians was the most bogus of press statements I had read last year.
Clearly, the said statement revealed that perhaps the people appointed to ‘manage disasters’ in the country need to be managed themselves.
“NADMO and its partners are ready to mitigate the effect of any such occurrence [referring to the earthquake] on the citizenry, especially those living along the fault line,” a portion of the statement read.
Is this not nauseating to have come from NADMO? Is NADMO waiting for the disaster to strike before they mitigate its effect or what exactly did they mean? Did NADMO’s Eric Nana Agyemang-Prempeh write this statement himself or it was written for him to sign? If we are to go by the latter, did the Director General read through what he appended his signature to?
This is a country where many of our leaders had their education overseas or lived there. Yet, these same leaders refuse to implement what they saw and marveled about abroad.
“THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed,” was a message sent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to people in America in 2018.
The message dubbed Presidential Alert went to some 225 million people at the same time. A friend [Ghanaian] there told me it came with loud notification tone and vibration on phones. The alert was designed to warn the public in the event of a national emergency such as a missile attack.
“All smartphones in Japan have an earthquake/tsunami alert system installed, hence, about 5 to 10 seconds before a disaster strikes the warning system should give people a precious few extra seconds to escape to a safer place or duck under the table. When the alert goes off a buzzing noise is heard, and a voice keeps saying, “Jishin desu! Jishin desu” (meaning “There is an earthquake”) until the earthquake stops,” reports jpinfo.com.
That is Japan’s story too. This tells that the Asian nation has learnt its lessons as taught by earthquakes. Now, Japan builds resistant houses, raises awareness on disaster prevention and trains housewives on what to do [rush to the kitchen to turn off the gas] when disaster strikes among others.
This is what any serious country does. They think deep and plan ahead.
Does NADMO have the data base of persons living in areas likely to be affected by any occurrence of an earthquake? Could it have constantly— at least once a week— sent these persons SMS to relocate [if they could]? Could it have teamed up with radio/TV stations to broadcast such messages as part of these media houses’ corporate social responsibilities? Could NADMO have sent these Ghanaians messages of what to do should the disaster occur?
Indeed, it is heart-throbbing that NADMO does not have any strategy to ensure lives are not lost should an earthquake strike. Please, forget about its bragging about being prepared. Not even has the organization a relocation plan for citizens living on the fault lines.
Should NADMO now decide to talk about relocation plan, it must not merely be telling residents to relocate. NADMO and government must find temporary shelter for those who cannot afford the cost involved in relocating.
In 2015, I wrote an opinion piece for Radio Ghana’s News Commentary [a segment on the station’s bulletin] arguing that government must find residents of Old Fadama a place when it made moves to eject them from Agbobloshie. My argument was hinged on one pivotal point. That, once we [the nation] allowed the squatters to settle at Old Fadama, it was morally right to find them a place if we meant to eject them from the land they occupied.
Similarly, if we allowed people to settle and build mansions at Kasoa-Nyanyanu and Weija among other areas, NADMO and government cannot look unconcerned but help relocate them if, indeed, there is an imminent earthquake.
Did history not tell us that in 1615, 1636, 1862 and 1939, the then Gold Coast experienced earth tremors? Did history, again, not tell us that the 1939 tremor claimed at least 17 lives with 133 others sustaining injuries? Did we not know from these tremors that there are some areas in the Greater Accra Region earmarked as ‘fault line of earthquake’? Where were the Lands Commission, our chiefs and district/municipal assemblies who gave out lands and supervised residents to build mansions there?
Let’s assume without admitting that the aforementioned institutions were oblivious of citizens building on the fault line. Why did the Electricity Company of Ghana and the Ghana Water Company Limited supply these areas with utilities? Do we not collect tolls from businesses in that enclave?
There are a number of ways we can, as a nation, employ to ensure that we do not lose a single soul should an earthquake strike. I will suggest two of such.
NADMO must push for the Ghana Geological Survey Authority [GGSA] to get state-of-the-art facilities to monitor the situation. At least, by this, we will get real time data on how ‘angry’ the earth is to beat the unpredictability of earthquakes.
Secondly, NADMO must get government to make the so-called affordable houses temporarily habitable for residents living on the fault line. These houses, we know, would be the reserve of the foot soldiers of any government in power when they are fully completed. The ordinary Ghanaian must have a feel of it while death, so said to be urgent, knocks on their doors.
For those who find themselves renting in the shakeup zones, relocating might not be a big deal. But, the question is, will it be easy for people leaving their mansions behind for nowhere?
The earlier we solved this puzzle, the better. Lest I forget, there is the Weija Dam in the enclave. Any occurrence of earthquake affecting the Dam could be our customized tsunami. This is the time to harness the best of our engineers to work things out.
NADMO, you have this moment to redeem yourself of your gross incompetence for the sleep that lasts till death happens!
By Solomon Mensah|3news.com|Ghana
The writer is a broadcast journalist with Media General (TV3/3FM). Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization.