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General News of Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Fire, explosions hit Michel Camp armoury

Loud explosions were heard on Wednesday dawn at the armoury of the Michel Camp Barracks, the base of the First Infantry Battalion of the Ghana Armed Forces.

Witnesses say they heard a loud noise shortly after huge flames engulfed the armoury at the military base in Tema, in the Greater Accra Region.

A junior military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Base Ammunition Depot (BAD), as it is known, holds a large consignment of explosives.

The fire is said to have started a little after midnight, followed by the loud explosions.

"I stood by my window to witness everything. My husband rushed out to check because initially, we thought it was one our neighbour’s house on fire. So he came back to confirm it was actually the arms depot...” a nursing mother narrated.

No death has been reported.

Military chiefs from the Ghana Armed Forces say they are unsure what triggered the fire.

Firefighters battled the fire for at least two hours before bringing the situation under control.

Encroachment

Panic swept through neighbouring residential areas when the explosions started.

Patience, an eyewitness told Myjoyonline.com that when the explosions started she thought it was an earthquake.

“At a point, it felt like there was an earthquake. I was terrified. I still am. My baby woke up scared as well. I was only inside waiting for my husband’s direction as to what to do next,” Patience told Myjoyonline.com.

The barracks, which was initially sited away from civilian populations, is currently a neighbour to a densely populated area in the Tema municipality.

Reports indicate that heavy encroachment of lands belonging to the base by developers and other institutions put non-uniformed members of society at risks when such fire disasters strike.

Fused out

Moses Dawutey, a freelance Defence Reporter, explains that some small arms and high explosives were affected by the fire.

“Some of the high explosives fused out towards Gulf City (a residential area close to the barracks) and the vibration alone was enough to cause cracks in buildings but it didn’t denote...it just fused out,” he said.

While the fire was raging, soldiers were deployed from the barracks to ensure that the fire did not spread to the high explosives compartment of the armoury, he told Myjoyonline.com.

He said had the heavy explosives been detonated by the fire, a major catastrophe would have occurred.

Although it is not clear what may have caused the fire, some experts Myjoyonline.com have contacted say excessive heat within an armoury can trigger fires.

Armouries are expected to be fitted with heavy-duty air-conditioners to keep their temperatures low at all times.

Contained

As of 3 am Wednesday morning, firefighters have contained the fire.

Moses Dawutey told Myjoyonline.com that highly placed military sources tell him the military “deployed all means to prevent the fire from spreading...[the sources said] the fire was detected in the laboratory and small arms zone of the depot. As such the effort was concentrated in halting the spread to the areas housing the highly explosive zone where long-range ordnances are located.”

Meanwhile, panic-stricken residents have moved to safety at neighbouring towns like Afienya, Community 25 and Gbetsile, all in the Greater Accra Region.