UP TO 100 people are feared dead after flooding in Ghana's capital Accra swept stored fuel into a nearby fire, setting off a huge explosion at a gas station.
The blast took place as dozens of people attempted to shelter at the gas station and in nearby shops in centre of the city to escape the torrential rains. The disaster raised new concerns over the city's inadequate infrastructure.
TV footage showed corpses being piled into the back of a pick-up truck and other charred bodies amid the debris. Floodwaters around the site hampered rescue and recovery efforts.
Officials at the nearby 37 Military Hospital said its morgue had reached capacity.
President John Dramani Mahama visited the scene yesterday, calling the death toll "catastrophic" and offering condolences to families of the victims.
"Steps will be taken to ensure that disastrous floods and their attendant deaths do not occur again," he said.
Michael Plange, who lives a few blocks away, said many people had taken shelter under a shed at the station from the rain and were hit by the explosion.
The flooding "caused the diesel and petrol to flow away from the gas station and a fire from a nearby house led to the explosion," said Billy Anaglate, spokesman for Ghana's national fire service.
In addition to the dead at the gas station, local media reported that many drowned in various parts of the city following two days of torrential rains. The combined death toll from the explosion and flooding is expected to rise.
The explosion is likely to intensify criticism of the government's failure to improve the infrastructure. Though the downpours this week have been especially bad, heavy rains in June are not unusual yet drainage systems in Accra remain inadequate.
Throughout Accra, drivers caught in the flooding abandoned their cars on the road. The Education Ministry instructed all children who were not already at school Thursday morning to stay home.
The city is also grappling with an energy crisis resulting in blackouts lasting for as long as 48 hours in recent years.