General News of Friday, 9 November 2012

Source: BBC

Melcom Disaster: Voices heard in rubble

Voices can still be heard in the rubble of a multi-storey shopping centre in Ghana's capital, Accra, 48 hours after it collapsed, rescue workers have said.

So far 78 people have been pulled out from beneath the debris of the Melcom store - nine of them dead and 69 alive.

Faulty construction has been blamed for the collapse of the building, which opened earlier this year.

People in nearby buildings owned by the same company have been ordered to evacuate pending safety inspections.

President John Dramani Mahama said those responsible for the "negligence will pay a price".

Banks emptied

The BBC's Akwasi Sarpong at the scene of the collapse says rescue efforts are now concentrating on one section where the voices can be heard.

Two ambulances are still in front of the site and four stretchers are on top of the rubble where workers are cutting through the concrete and debris, he says.

Officials say they do not know how many people are still trapped beneath the collapsed structure.

An Israeli rescue team has been using sniffer dogs to help locate people buried under the rubble.

Officials from Ghana's National Disaster Management Organization blamed poor foundations for the structure's weakness.

On Thursday, the Ghana Institution of Engineering said the building did not have a permit which meant the city authorities may not have inspected the building before it opened.

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly has now ordered three nearby buildings which are also owned by Nana Boadu, the director of Kinsadus Company, to be evacuated.

These include the branches of two banks.

The court order posted on the Standard Chartered Bank building says that no-one is allowed access to the building "until appropriate structural adjustments and building permits are regularly obtained from Accra Metropolitan Assembly".

Our reporter says the employees of Fidelity Bank could be seen moving computers and furniture out of the branch on Friday morning.

According to the court order, the third building is occupied by Mr Boadu and his family.

Our correspondent says the property developer is still wanted for questioning about Wednesday's collapse.

But Mr Boadu told a local radio station on Friday morning that the Melcom store building did have a permit.

"There is no way I will put up a building and do a shoddy work," he told Ghana's Peace FM.

"Every document needed to help in the investigations I will provide. I have a file full of documents and receipts showing the building permit fees," he said.

Our reporter says Accra mayor Alfred Vanderpuye arrived at the site of the collapse on Friday morning and is facing questions from reporters.

The president has declared the site a disaster zone and suspended his campaign for next month's elections.