A tanker has caught fire at a gas-filling station in Ghana’s capital, Accra, triggering two explosions and killing an unknown number of people, according to an official.
Police said the blasts happened in the Atomic Junction roundabout area of Legon, in northeast Accra, at about 7:30pm (19:30 GMT) on Saturday.
“Unfortunately there are some fatalities and we are working to have the numbers,” Deputy Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah told a local radio station. “There are quite a number also injured.”
The explosion began at a state-owned GOIL liquefied natural gas station and spread to a Total petrol station across the street, sending a giant fireball high into the night sky and forcing frightened residents to flee.
“It’s too early for us to know the cause of the fire. We will investigate,” Ghana National Fire Service spokesman Billy Anaglate told AFP news agency. “There are some vehicles that were also burned as a result of the explosions.”
At least six fire trucks and more than 200 police personnel were deployed to help to cordon off the area of the blasts. Ambulances also arrived and those with various injuries were sent to the hospital.
Many people are feared dead as the blasts happened at “an extremely busy part” of the capital.
“This is a busy interchange and one of the main routes out of the city,” she said. “There are lots of buildings and a lot of people in the area, including many street sellers.”
The filling station is also near a transport terminal and close to some hostels for the University of Ghana.
The Accra city authorities warned people to avoid the area.
Kobby Boateng, a computer programmer, said he had returned to the university campus with his girlfriend when the blast happened.
“All of a sudden, we heard a ‘boom’ and the flash of an explosion, which made the building just shake and the lights went out,” he told AFP.
“People were rushing out of their rooms. Some of them were naked and the heat that was coming from that blast, my God, it was unbearable.”
In June 2015, a blast at a petrol station near a busy downtown Accra intersection killed at least 90 people who were sheltering there from heavy rain and flooding.
A small unit on a tower building at Ghana’s parliament also caught fire in July, although the blaze did not cause major damage.