June 3 2015: The story of a Multimedia Journalist

June 3 2015: The story of a Multimedia Journalist

The memory is still fresh on my mind, her sad face with no sign of hope, wearing an oversized dress, sitting on the floor as she lamented and wept uncontrollably. “Bue! bue! Ade Aye me o, obi nso mi mu o bue! Mensonomuo! she bellowed in lamentations. When I approached and tried to console her she said ‘Maame, how can I stop, my two children are gone, my whole family is gone, how can I stop crying, tell me?’ Maame Mary quizzed and continued wailing.

Telling her to stop crying, now became a difficult thing to do as my own eyes were filled with tears. I would turn away and shed some tears and return to consoling her.

Photos of Jun 3 memorial

One of Maame Mary’s children who died at 18, Esther

“God knows best, pull yourself together, everything is going to be fine,” were few words I remember saying to her.

She is a survivor of the tragic flood and fire disaster which occurred at Kwame Nkrumah Circle on June 3 last year, sweeping away over 150 lives.

Fortunately, she escaped the fire but she lost a sister and her sister’s child, two of her children and one was in critical condition at the 37 Military Hospital when I interviewed her at the scene.

Consoling a woman who had lost three children, a sister, and a niece became a tall order, one of the most difficult things I ever did.

No one expected a disaster of this magnitude. That fateful evening, June 3, 2015, was a normal Wednesday albeit with several hours of rain. I got home earlier than usual after work for reasons i was yet to put a finger on. Without my usual night prayers, I slept off, again, earlier than I used to.

I woke up at about 5:00 AM on Thursday, June 4 and saw over thirty missed calls and messages. When I put on my data, the Whatsapp messages poured in like waterfalls. That was also unusual. Before I could click on any of the messages, a call came through.

“Asiedua, are you okay? Did your place also get flooded?”, my colleague Abednego asked.

I told him I was fine and asked what was going on. He laughed and said ‘you do not know?’

There was a heavy rain and people’s homes have been flooded and some people died in an explosion at Circle. Step out and see if some houses were affected by the rains in your neighborhood we need a report for 6am.

I stepped out and omg! There were people everywhere…some either collecting water from their flooded homes into a main drainage or trying to get their unwet properties to dry grounds.

Residents without vehicles had to take off their shoes and pull up their trousers to walk through the water to the other side.

There was free flow of traffic on the Mallam-Kasoa Highway, that also unusual on a Thursday morning but I observed many shops were still closed at about 6:30 AM.

The story was no different through Mallam Junction to Odorkor.

I logged on to myjoyonline.com while I was in a car to read more about the floods and the explosion and my! I couldn’t explain how I felt. I logged on to Facebook and my newsfeed was full of images of dead bodies, vehicles in drains, the burnt filling station at Kwame Nkrumah Circle.

At Kaneshie, it was bad. Traders were busy collecting water out of their shops and passengers were stranded.

Accra Floods and fire Explosion

A car dragged and abandoned by the floods

There were abandoned vehicles in the middle of the road at Pamprom near Kaneshie . Some part  had also been blocked with sand and rubbish.

After some few minutes, I was at Circle. Passengers of commercial vehicles alighted at the VIP bus terminal and walked due to the heavy traffic jam as a result of the floods.

From the railways, I could see pedestrians standing on a bridge looking into the Odaw drainage and taking pictures. I could hear loud sirens of vehicles moving ahead as I walked towards the railway.

Then I saw a group of men trying to pull out the body of a man who was believed to have drowned from the flood.

Then a man run towards the body saying ‘That is Rambo, he is one of the guys who sell clothes near the Odaw river. We have been looking for him all over the place.’ He helped the others pull out the body which had been soaked with water.

A policeman allowed me entry into the cordoned Goil Filling Station after inspecting my ID card. The sight of bloody water dripping from the Kia truck loaded with dead bodies is still fresh on my mind.

At the ‘skeleton’ filling station stood blackened metals, burnt – out cars, corpses mounted high at the back of the KIA truck, parked in the middle of the road and huge crowd at the other side of the road.

Aftermath of the Circle Explosion

Burnt buildings and shops adjacent the filling station stood empty, with no activity, except the smoke and the pungent smell that had engulfed the area.

Accra Floods and fire Explosion

You could see from outside that nothing had escaped the fire, shattered glasses littered the floor of many of the shops; some metals lay blackened and twisted on the ground as I followed the firefighters into one of the shops.

Then suddenly someone screamed ‘come over here, there are some more[bodies] here.’ I followed the policemen to the shop where the scream came from and oh my! It was hard to watch!

Accra Floods and fire Explosion

The one that got me crying was the discovery of the body of a woman with her child on top of her in a room a few meters away from the filling station. They were believed to have drowned when their room was submerged by the flood.

Photos of Jun 3 memorial

The wooden structure that housed the woman and her child was locked with this huge padlock when I visited the place a year after.

Then someone drew my attention to the woman who had lost her two children, her sister as well as her niece. She was wailing uncontrollably. I offered to console her but I couldn’t. Then many gory stories of the disaster started trickling in from some of the survivors.

One man who was helping in the packing of the bodies into the KIA truck said out of about five men who were eating at a place close to the scene, he was the only one who survived.

‘I tried to save some of them but there was little I could do. One tried to swim in the flood when his shirt caught fire but the more he swam, the faster the flame caught up with him.’

He told me of a driver of a corolla car who had just parked his car at the bus stop but died although his vehicle did not catch fire.

He talked of a woman whom almost everyone spoke well about- Emilia – a food vendor also tragically lost her life.

Never in my life have i seen so many dead people; never have i seen such devastation. My eyes were heavy with tears; my heart was laden with grief. On the 1st Anniversary of the June 3 disaster, my heart goes out to the many who lost their lives, to their families.

My prayer is that attitudes will change and powers that be will ensure that never again will such disaster strike our dear country.

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This is by Akosua Asiedua Akuffo of Myjoyonline.com. Email: Patricia.akuffo@myjoyonline.com|  akosuaasiedua15@yahoo.co.uk| @asiedua_ Twitter/Instagram

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