News24

Ghana mall collapse raises fears

2012-11-15 20:39

Accra - The deadly collapse of a six-storey shopping centre in Ghana's capital Accra due to construction flaws, has raised fears of more such tragedies in the West African boom town.

The 7 November incident, in which 14 people died, could have been far worse.

A rescue operation by Ghanaian authorities, an Israeli team and even workers from a nearby construction site managed to pull at least 75 people from the rubble alive.

Construction cranes dot the skies of the city, which anchors what is, at least on paper, one of the world's fastest growing economies.

Cash flow into the city is expected to increase in the coming years as oil production rises.

But as new buildings and business complexes continue to shoot up, some have voiced concern that contractors are sacrificing safety for speed in a country seen as a relative success story in often turbulent West Africa.

A structural and bridge engineer who is part of the team probing the collapse of the Melcom shopping centre, Emmanuel Degbotse, said: "Land is becoming very expensive in Accra.

"Every year the price almost doubles."

Approval

To maximise value, developers are increasingly looking to build taller structures and authorities at the Accra Municipal Assembly do not have the manpower to properly assess every proposal, he said.

"It would be impossible to assess every plan," he said, charging that some contractors bribe city officials to secure speedy approval.

Magnus Quarshie, vice president of the Ghana Institution of Engineering, also serving on the Melcom investigation panel, said the collapsed building probably did not meet basic construction standards.
"That's why we have this type of pancake collapse.

“ Usually, you would have expected this (with) a fatigued building and part of it would (have) collapsed, but this is unusual”, Quarshie said.

Both Quarshie and Degbotse said tests had revealed that the concrete used at Melcom had been too weak to support the structure.

Concrete slabs caved in on the Melcom building employees as they held morning prayers before opening to the public.

Already a major producer of gold and cocoa, analysts expect Ghana's emerging oil sector to transform the economy in the nation of more than 20 million people.

 Its economy is projected to grow by more than 8% this year.