Fire has ravaged one of the most patronised shopping centres in Bolgatanga, Upper East regional capital, following what is widely suspected to be an electrical fault.
The mall, known as Ra-Bacchus Enterprise and generally considered as a megastore because of its size and quality of the mostly electronic products found there, belongs to the Upper East Regional Spiritual Head of the Old Vandals Association (the alumni of the Commonwealth Hall of the University of Ghana Legon), Alhaji Abdul-Razak Rahaman, who reportedly was not in the region when the disaster struck Tuesday.
Residents and passersby around the Commercial Street, where the shopping mall shares a 3-storey building with the regional office of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), confronted the wild flames with ordinary water to no avail until the arrival of fire officers. The higher the thick smoke from the mall spiraled in the air, the more a crowd swelled around the outbreak scene as the items- including huge LED digital sets, fridges, microwaves and ceiling fans among other expensive stuffs- melted away in the red flames. The fear of the wild fire possibly spreading through the entire building and bringing down the towering structure gripped many as the flames ‘vandalised’ the area belonging to the Vandals’ boss.
The firefighters brought the blaze under control within five minutes and managed to salvage some items from the store in another stormy operation that took more than 25 minutes. A number of friends, said to be very close to the proprietor, as well as some businessmen, who deal in the same products as those contained in the ravaged mall, sped to the area, and, in thorough shock, held their heads and waists with their mouths wide-opened upon arrival at the scene.
“The owners of the store themselves told us they suspected the fire was as a result of an electrical fault,” the Upper East Regional Fire Commander, ACO Douglas Koyiri, said in an interview. “They were pointing at a meter board inside the store, saying they saw fire coming from there. That is what they said; but we have commenced our investigations to establish what may have brought about the fire. This is a wakeup call to the general public to always switch off electrical gadgets and even unplug them when they are not in use. It is also risky to overload sockets with plugs.”
NDC hasn’t treated me well- devastated proprietor laments
When contacted on the telephone, the proprietor of the devastated store, who is popularly known as “Alhaji Ra-Bacchus”, disclosed that he had lost items worth about Gh¢186,000 to the fire.
“We did the auditing last Wednesday. I have been out of the shop for almost two months now. I went to Mecca and came. I went to Bawku for an award, came back and went to Accra where I have an ongoing project. My auditors audited everything intact just last week. They have the value of the stock. When we did the stock, we got about Gh¢216,000 of the stock. So far, what we are able to salvage is about Gh¢30,000. The rest have been burnt to ashes,” Alhaji Rahaman said.
He said, having just returned from a holy pilgrimage and not from any immoral expedition, “Allah may have used this challenge for something good”. But a tone of distraught could be felt in his voice on the telephone.
Asked when he intended to renovate, restock and reopen the ruined store, Alhaji Rahaman, who is well known for his strong support for the NDC, was unable to tell. He said the only money that could have helped him get back on his feet was what government had failed to pay him since 2012 for a project he executed and handed over 4 years ago at Sogakope in the Volta Region.
“I was a strong member of the NDC; but they haven’t treated me well; so, I’m not a strong member today. For almost 4 years now, they are not paying me. I’ve done everything possible. I have been helping them, fuelling their motorbikes when we were in opposition, painting the NDC office on top of my shop, renovating it.
“People would come to me for help; I would give them money to go home; only for me to go and look for a job at Sogakope. I couldn’t get a job here. They refused. They were not taking care of us. I went to Volta Region and got a job there. I did the job and handed over. Since 2012 up to date, they haven’t paid. I have a spinal cord problem; only Alhaji Limuna, Agric Minister, has done his best for me,” he lamented.
Fire service on twin disasters
Tuesday offered the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) a double task of taming flames in the regional capital’s busiest street and also to retrieve dead bodies from an articulated truck on the Bolgatanga-Tamale Road.
The articulator was among a convoy of cargo vehicles reportedly carrying chemicals including cyanide through that road towards Burkina Faso and the other neighbouring countries. The driver is said to have lost his brake and, in an attempt to avoid collision with another vehicle coming from Bolgatanga, veered off its path into a deep ditch at Karimenga near Pwalugu in the Talensi District.
He died together with another occupant of his vehicle. Source learns it would have been more disastrous if the driver had not avoided the collision not only because a collision could have killed more people on the vehicles involved but also because a lot more could have been affected in the entire vicinity if the sorts of chemicals on the trucks had been exposed as a result of a crash.
The incident happened Monday, but fire and police officers managed to retrieve only one body. Efforts to retrieve the last body continued Tuesday after the fire officers had extinguished the flames on the Commercial Street. The retrieval operation was still underway as of the time of filing this report.
Source: radioxyzonline.com/with additional files from Ghana/starrfmonline