Dozens feared trapped in Ghana shopping mall collapse

07 November 2012 - 17:18 By Sapa-AFP
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

A six-storey shopping mall collapsed in the Ghanaian capital Accra on Wednesday and dozens of victims were feared trapped in the rubble, sparking desperate rescue bids, witnesses said.

One employee at the scene, who declined to be named, estimated around 40 workers were in the building when it collapsed, though he was not sure about the number of customers.

Family members gathered at the scene trying to phone relatives they feared might be trapped there, as scores of rescue workers sought to clear debris and get oxygen masks to victims.

"My son, my son, my son! My son is going to die! Get him for me! He is my only son!" one woman screamed.

An AFP correspondent witnessed four people being brought out of the rubble alive. The cause of the collapse of the Melcom shopping centre was not immediately clear.

President John Dramani Mahama issued a brief statement through his Twitter account.

"My prayers are with the workers, shoppers and others who are trapped in the rubble of the collapsed Achimota Melcom building," it said.

Some time later another tweet from his account said he was suspending his election campaign ahead of December 7 polls due to the disaster.

Police had rushed to the scene and were still seeking to confirm details as a large crowd gathered at the site. Soldiers arrived to help maintain order.

"The issue is still fresh," Assistant Superintendent Juliana Obeng told AFP. "They are still working to get to the root of the building. Meanwhile we have sent ambulances to the scene."

Witness Ama Okyere told AFP that "I was very close to the mall because I was going to buy something only for me to see the building coming 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 shoping mall in the area."

Another witness said he heard a bang followed by the building falling in.

"I was on my way to school and all of a sudden heard a big bang and people shouting, only for me to see that the shopping mall has collapsed," said another witness, John Owusu.

The building in the capital of the West African nation of some 20 million people includes a number of shops selling various types of consumer goods.

The Melcom Group of Companies, based in Ghana, includes extensive retail outlets, according to its website.

Ghana, a major producer of gold and cocoa which began significant oil production in 2010, is viewed as a success story in often turbulent West Africa and a rare example of a relatively stable democracy in the region.