Address issue of squatters’ settlements

Fire outbreaks have be­come common in certain places in Accra such as Circle and Kantamanto market mainly due to careless behaviour like overloading electricity exten­sion boards or sockets or leaving a fire unattended to.

Since such carelessness persists particularly in the markets and shanty settlements, it did not come as a surprise when more than 450 wooden structures which served as homes to some squatters along the Circle-Accra rail line were destroyed by fire on Wednesday.

Even though the inferno rendered most of the squatters homeless and destroyed belong­ings running into millions of cedis, we thank God that fortu­nately, there were no casualties.

However the June 5, 2024 fire outbreak has come as a painful reminder of the June 3, 2015 fire that erupted at a petrol station some hundreds of metres away from the location of the present fire and killed some 150 people, whose 9th anniversary took place just two days earlier.

Any time there occurs a fire outbreak in the country, certain problems associated with previ­ous ones are identified.

As we have already mentioned, the carelessness of the people is prominent but our greater worry is that the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) encounters a number of problems, including difficulty in getting fire hydrants in the immediate environs of the fire and so the firefighters had to travel long distances for water to fight the fire.

It is clear that contributed to the firefighters taking more than three hours (5:37 p.m. – 8:57 p.m.) to extinguish the fire.

We can conjecture that since some of the victims could salvage what was left of their belongings, many more of the belongings could have been saved if it had taken a shorter period to kill the fire.

The government should consider providing more fire hydrants, particularly at places where fire outbreaks are rampant.

In addition, the GNFS should be provided all the facilities that would make it easier for its personnel to get access to every fire and extinguish it, including turntable ladders, all types of fire hoses, firefighting foam equip­ment and dry risers.

Also, the District Assemblies should ensure that access in communities and markets are not blocked or usurped.

Besides, the Electricity Com­pany of Ghana should make its workers go round town to check illegal connection and overloaded sockets and extension boards.

And while we talk about these things, there is the need to bring to attention the warn­ing the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Mr Daniel Nii Kwartei Titus-Glover, gave the victims of the Wednesday fire when he said the place was not meant for habitation and that anybody who constructed any structure to be used as settlement there would be arrested by law enforcement agencies.

Much as we do not begrudge him for his warning, we think his office, the regional administration and the relevant district assem­blies should first be blamed for looking on unconcerned when squatters begin erecting struc­tures for use as homes.

If they are cautioned or stopped initially, they can prob­ably find somewhere else to go and live.

It is time to address the general issue of squatters’ settlements in the country but in the present case, the government must come in and help the fire victims, some of whom might have lost some money in the fire in addition to personal belongings.

Probable, the government would have to build some mod­erate facilities to accommodate these squatters some of whom contribute to nation building in one way or another.

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