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.


Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

Updated 50 min 55 sec ago
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Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

  • Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade
  • Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership

BELGRADE, Serbia: Vladimir Putin received a hero’s welcome in ally Serbia on Thursday as the Russian president attempted to maintain political and economic influence in the Balkans, which is increasingly looking Westward.
Putin’s presidential plane was escorted over Serbian airspace by MiG-29 fighter jets he recently donated to Serbia as he arrived for the one-day visit. Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership. It has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and has pledged to stay out of NATO.
Putin has recently stepped up efforts to restore Moscow’s influence in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.
Putin and his host, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, praised the relationship between the two countries. Putin handed a top Russian honor to Vucic, who gave a puppy of a Serb dog breed to the Russian president.
Vucic thanked Russia for its support for Serbia’s claim over Kosovo, a former province that declared independence in 2008, and added that “however small,” Serbia has been a “reliable partner” to Russia.
Several bilateral agreements were signed, including on the supply of Russian gas and weapons to Serbia.
On the gas, Putin said Russian companies are ready to invest about $1.4 billion into a stretch of a pipeline that would go from Turkey via EU-member Bulgaria to Serbia and then on to Hungary, “but in the end, everything will depend on other countries, including the European Union.”
Putin’s visit come as thousands have been holding weekly demonstrations against Vucic because of what they see as his autocratic rule.
Tens of thousands of Vucic’s right-wing party supporters were bused into the capital on Thursday to gather in front of the St. Sava Orthodox church, which the two presidents visited. They were chanting slogans including “Serbia-Russia, we don’t need the European Union!“
Vucic’s critics say the gathering was staged to suggest that the Serbian leader has many more supporters than opponents, who have been marching the same route since December to demand free elections and media.
Several liberal Serbian rights groups issued a statement on Thursday protesting “glorification of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.”
It said that Putin’s visit “indicates that the Serbian rulers are ready to sacrifice human rights and better living standards of citizens because of their servile attitude toward Putin’s regime.”
Russia’s interest in Serbia relates to its strategic position between East and West. Of Serbia’s eight neighbors, five are NATO members and two more are seeking membership; and four are in the EU and two more are working toward accession. Serbia remains Moscow’s only ally in the region.
Unlike NATO, Putin formally does not oppose Serbia’s EU path and analysts believe that this is because he wants a staunch ally — or perhaps a Trojan horse — within the 28-nation bloc.
Putin’s popularity in Serbia is mostly because the Kremlin is supporting Serbia in its rejection of Kosovo’s independence. In contrast, most Western countries have recognized Kosovo’s statehood.