The Makola second hand clothes market in Accra yesterday had a taste of the fire outbreaks that have been ravaging the country’s markets, resulting in the burning down of 200 shops and rendering more than 2,000 traders jobless.
The fire, which started about 4 a.m., burnt down all the wooden shops containing second hand clothing, shoes, bags and other items worth millions of Ghana cedis. There was no casualty, though.
The absence of water in water hydrants at the central business district (CBD) compelled fire officers to go as far as to the 37 Military Hospital to get water, a situation which delayed the firefighting efforts.
Combustible materials such as gas cylinders and wooden structures at the market aggravated the fire, amid intermittent explosions.
It took 75 fire fighters drawn from the Accra City, Dansoman, Industrial Area, Trade Fair, Madina, Adenta and Tema Fire stations one-and-a half hours to bring the fire under control. They also prevented the fire from extending to a nearby petrol filling station.
The fire officers used eight fire engines, two water tankers and two turntable ladders.
The National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) supported with two water tankers.
As many of the traders mostly women, looked on helplessly, one of them who could not withstand the spectacle tried to jump into the blazing fire but was stopped by the police.
As soon as she arrived at the fire scene, a lady, whose name was not given, started crying and running towards the fire, but the police pursued her and held her back.
It was a heart-breaking scene for the other traders, men and women, who shed tears for the loss of their sources of livelihood.
Some of the traders told the Daily Graphic that they had lost all that they had struggled to establish over the years.
They were of the view that the fire was the handiwork of arsonists and referred to the woman who had been caught for allegedly trying to burn the Makola Shopping Mall last week as an example of a member of the syndicate of arsonists.
One of the traders, who gave his name only as Yusif, said he had recently bought more goods to fill his shop in anticipation of the Easter festivities.
"Now I have lost everything that I have struggled to establish for years. Now I do not know what to do when I wake up tomorrow morning and days after," he lamented.
The President of the Greater Accra Market Women Association, Mercy Nija, believed that “the fires do not just happen like that" and charged the authorities to try to expose the people behind the market fires.
Madam Nija said she believed that the woman who was arrested for allegedly attempting to burn down the Makola Shopping Mall last Tuesday was sane, not mad, as suggested by the police, and that she was part of the larger machination to set markets ablaze and deny traders their sources of livelihood.
Acting Chief Fire Officer
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the acting Chief Fire Officer, Brigadier General John Bosco Guyuri, said the presence of combustible materials, such as gas cylinders, and the wooden nature of the structures compounded the scale of the fire.
He said the movement of fire engines to the 37 Military Hospital for water due to the absence of water in the water hydrants in the CBD delayed the work of the fire officers.
Brigadier General Guyuri said investigations had started to establish the cause of the fire.
The Accra Regional Police Commander, DCOP Christian Tetteh Yohuno, told journalists that he had deployed men on the ground to prevent unauthorised persons from getting access to the market.
He said it was too early to suspect arsonists as causing the fire and indicated that the cause of the fire would be established by the investigations.