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Opinions of Saturday, 26 October 2013

Columnist: Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

Fire Outbreaks: Act now to save the people of Old Fadama

It is sad that once again the old Fadama in Accra has been thrown into a state of mourning. This time the inhabitants in this bustling area are not mourning the dead. They are crying over the loss of shacks they call buildings and items such as television sets, furniture, clothing and cash through an overnight fire.

Ghana National Fire Service did a good reactionary job by putting out the fires. The Deputy Public Relations Officer of the service Billy Anaglatey had this to say. “Technically we were able to control the situation and prevented some of the structures from catching fire”.

Hundreds of people have been rendered homeless after fire gutted parts of the slum.

Although the cause of the fire is yet to be established, some of the victims say the flames ravaged nearly 700 shacks, which according to them housed a number of families.

According to them, they were at work in the nearby markets scavenging for scrap metals when the fire struck.

Though the Ghana National Fire Service managed to put out the fire most of the inhabitants of this settlement being scrap dealers market mammies, kaya yei are in a confused state.

They have begun the ritual of appealing to the government and National Disaster Management Organization NADMO to come to their aid.

They were heard asking NADMO to provide them with mattresses and other relief items. This has been an annual affair, and it is sad to see women and children hanging out there not knowing where to lay their heads in the night.

The sad part of this is that this is not the first time fire has gutted through the entire homes of the residents of that part of Old Fadama. Fire outbreak has become an annual occurrence at the place.

The reason for this is quite clear. Everyone concerned including the Accra metropolitan assembly AMA and the Ghana Fire Service are both aware that the inhabitants in this area live in poorly built kiosks in a congested area. The area doubles as a residential area and a market with a lot of them using naked fire to cook at all times while some others engage in illegal electrical connections. The scrap dealers often use naked fires in their work. The AMA and the Ghana Fire Service cannot say they are not aware of this.

After the fires have been put out and the fire service and officials concerned are contemplating assessing the damage caused by the fire, something strange happened. The inhabitants were seen preparing to reconstruct their kiosks once again.

This is not good enough as it would be counter-productive says a visitor to the area. They rebuild their dueling places each time they found themselves in this situation when they lost their homes to fires. I learnt that the AMA boss, Dr Oko Vanderpuye, once warned them against rebuilding their shattered homes, warning that the fire could occur again given the kind of buildings they live in. He stated the fact but needed to pursue it by stopping them from rebuilding their shacks.

The questions that beg for answers are. Are the AMA and the Ghana fire Service aware about the danger in allowing the inhabitants of old Fadama and others in such communities to hurriedly rebuild their kiosks without permission? Are they aware that the inhabitants don’t follow fire safety rules? If the answer is yes, then why are the two organizations not ordering the inhabitants to stay away from the area for a while to allow proper action to be taken on the site by government?

My candid opinion is that the two organizations should provide the area with a good layout and plan suitable for the area before allowing people to return to the area. The AMA must do well to provide the people a plan for dwelling homes with a market place that is separate from the homes. The inhabitants must be taken through fire safety lessons with the knowledge of handling electricity, gas and naked fires. There must be regular inspection of the place to ensure the safety of the people. It is only this that would ensure the safety of the home in old Fadama and other areas like this town in Accra and other parts of the country.