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Fuel blast death toll reaches 150


The petrol station after it exploded in Accra, Ghana, killing dozens of people. (AP)

The petrol station after it exploded in Accra, Ghana, killing dozens of people. (AP)

The petrol station after it exploded in Accra, Ghana, killing dozens of people. (AP)

The death toll from a huge petrol station explosion and flooding in Ghana's capital has more than doubled to 150 people, the president said tonight.

Dozens of people had sought shelter at the petrol station and in nearby shops in central Accra to escape torrential rain when the blast happened last night.

Flooding swept fuel being stored at the station into a nearby fire, triggering the explosion that also set neighbouring buildings on fire, officials said.

The West African nation will observe three days of mourning with flags flying at half-mast, and the government will allocate about 12 million US dollars (£7.8 million) for relief operations and to repair damaged infrastructure, President John Dramani Mahama told journalists before heading into an emergency meeting.

Before Mr Mahama's announcement, the death toll stood at 73.

TV footage earlier today showed bodies being piled into the back of a pick-up truck and other charred remains trapped amid the debris. Floodwater around the site hampered rescue and recovery efforts.

Officials at the nearby 37 Military Hospital said its morgue had reached capacity.

Mr Mahama visited the blast site during the day, 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 from the rain under a shed at the station 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.

The deaths are likely to intensify criticism of the government's failure to improve the country's infrastructure. Though the downpours this week have been especially bad, heavy rain in June is not unusual - yet drainage systems in Accra remain inadequate.

The area where the blast took place is a heavily trafficked section of central Accra with several banks and other offices in addition to residences. Multiple bus terminals connect the area to the rest of the city.

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 this morning to stay at home.

The city is also grappling with an energy crisis resulting in blackouts lasting for as long as 48 hours in recent years, sparking large-scale demonstrations that have drawn everyone from blue-collar workers to local film stars.

PA Media