Anger in Ghana after 7 die in gas station blasts

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In this Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, photo, the scene of an explosion is seen in Accra, Ghana. A tanker explosion at a gas-filling station in Ghana late Saturday, followed by a secondary blast, has left a number of casualties in the Legon suburb in northwest Accra, authorities said. (AP)
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This Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, photo, shows a charred vehicle after an explosion in Accra, Ghana. A tanker explosion at a gas-filling station in Ghana late Saturday, followed by a secondary blast, has left a number of casualties in the Legon suburb in northwest Accra, authorities said. (AP)
Updated 08 October 2017
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Anger in Ghana after 7 die in gas station blasts

ACCRA: Ghanaians on Sunday pushed the government to improve safety at fuel stations after seven people were killed when a tanker truck carrying natural gas caught fire in the nation’s capital, triggering explosions.
The fire and blasts gutted a liquefied gas filling station and a nearby petrol station in the Atomic Junction area of the Legon suburb of Accra on Saturday night, sending local residents fleeing.
President Nana Akufo-Addo tweeted: “The news of last night’s gas explosion at Atomic Junc, resulting in the loss of 4 lives & injuries to several others, has left me devastated... My deepest condolences to the families of the bereaved, and I wish the injured speedy recovery.”
Vice President Mahamadu Bawumia was visiting the scene of the tragedy on Sunday, Akufo-Addo said, adding: “Government is resolved, now more than ever, to ensure such an incident does not occur again.”
Ghana National Fire Service spokesman Billy Anaglate said earlier that two of the victims died at the scene of the incident and the third in hospital. There were also 35 injured and five were in intensive care overnight.
"As we speak, six people are dead due to this fire," Anaglatey said Sunday and added the cause of the explosions is being investigated.
One of those who died was killed after jumping from a flyover at the busy Atomic Junction roundabout, where there are three fuel stations, transport services and restaurants.
It is also near a high school and the University of Ghana campus.
The country’s Deputy Minister of Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said the government deployed about 12 fire trucks and 200 police personnel to cordon off the scene and manage traffic.
“A lot of people quickly rushed away, which is what saved a lot of lives but also caused a lot of panic,” he told AFP.
Fire crews were still at the scene on Sunday morning, damping down the stricken tanker with water. A number of cars and a minibus near the site were burned out.
Ghana’s capital was the scene of a similar fire and explosion at a petrol station in June 2015 which killed more than 150.
In May this year, scores of people were injured when a tanker discharging natural gas exploded in the western city of Takoradi.
The latest incident sparked outrage among some Ghanaians on social media about the safety of filling stations, many of which are located near schools, hospitals and businesses.
A petition was created addressed to Akufo-Addo, demanding better regulation and inspection of existing and proposed facilities. Nearly 1,500 people had signed it by late morning on Sunday.
Proposals include siting filling stations at least 50 meters from homes and 100 meters from schools and hospitals.
Abena Awuku, a Ghanaian living in the Netherlands, proposed the measures on the change.org site, saying fuel stations were “all disasters waiting to happen and the time to act is now.”
“There was a similar incident two years ago and we were fed lies and empty promises about regulations going to be put in place but then we had to witness this,” she told AFP later.
“These deaths could have easily been prevented, so let’s prevent them from ever occurring again in the future.”
Nkrumah said regulations already existed about the siting of fuel stations but the initial focus of the authorities was taking care of those injured in the incident.
“There’s an investigation that’s starting. It will determine whether it’s a failure of regulations, it’s an accident or something else,” he added.


Afghanistan has half a million widows, and the number is increasing, says government

Updated 24 June 2018
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Afghanistan has half a million widows, and the number is increasing, says government

  • Some 15 kilometers southeast of the capital is the “zanabad,” or city of women, built completely by widows
  • Widows are the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan

KABUL: The burden of life has made Masooma look twice her age. Her life story in many ways is similar to those of several hundred thousand other Afghan women who have become widows since the latest conflict began here more than 40 years ago.
She lost her husband in a rocket attack 17 years ago in Kabul and since then has been feeding and raising her five children, doing jobs such as cleaning and laundry.

Looking frail and exhausted, Masooma is now part of the army of Kabul’s municipality and cleans roads in the city where the gap between the rich and poor is widening, thanks to the flow of foreign aid that has largely ended up in the pockets of commanders and those with links either to the government or foreign troops, as Masooma laments.

“I hate to beg and am proud of my job. I'm happy to earn a livelihood in a legitimate way,” Masooma told Arab News, sweeping a road and wearing an orange gown and a tight headscarf.

Like the rest of her female colleagues, she cleans the streets by braving the attacks, the rising heat in summer and extreme cold in winter.

Her eldest child is a young man now and he is a bus conductor, helping her to pay the rent for the house and sharing other responsibilities. 

But her life has been a long struggle in a male-dominated society where women are perceived largely as owned by their father before becoming their husband’s property and widows are often rejected or regarded as burdens.

“You cannot imagine the hardships I have gone through. It is not easy to raise five children without a father, without money and a house,” Masooma said.

Widows are the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan. They suffer violence, expulsion, ostracism and sometimes forced remarriage, often with a brother-in-law, as reported by the UN Mission in Afghanistan in a study in 2014.

Ferooza, another widow, lost her husband 20 years ago during a clash with the Taliban in northern Baghlan province. She moved to Kabul along with her daughter, Habiba. They have similar jobs to Masooma, with no health or life insurance in a country in the middle of war that relies on foreign aid.

“Life is very tough for widows. It is not easy for women to clean the streets day after day, for months and years, but we do not have an alternative. We are content and feel happy that we are working rather than being a burden on others,” Habiba told Arab News with a mild smile.

According to the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, there are more than 500,000 widows in Afghanistan, most of them war widows. Of these, 70,000 are breadwinners for their families, the ministry said in recent statistics given to the media last week.

Some 15 kilometers southeast of the capital is the “zanabad,” or city of women, built completely by widows. The first women settled on this stony-slope location outside Kabul in the 1990s, hoping to escape the stigma they are forced to endure.

Today it is known as Afghanistan’s "hill of widows," home to a cluster of women who have eked out independence in a society that shuns them.

Ninety percent of them are illiterate, some even taking care of as many as eight children, Hashratullah Ahmadzai, spokesman for the ministry, told Arab News.

“We are in a state of war. The number of women who become widows is increasing. Those who fight on the government side and those on the side of the Taliban and the miltants have wives and mothers too. People on both sides suffer and women on all sides are affected more than anyone in this war,” Ahmadzai said. 

War widows who are registered by the government receive some meagre annual help from the ministry, but that does not meet the need of the victims, he said.

Gul Ghotai, head of the statistics department at the Ministry of Women Affairs, said the government lacks any strategy on creating vocational or short-term jobs for the widows.

“The ministry of women has done nothing on this. The government as a whole has failed to address the widows’ problems because it does not have the capacity. It has not even come up with a plan as to how to tackle the problem,” she told Arab News.