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Government to relocate Foreign Affairs workers – Mills

MINISTRYPresident John Atta Mills on Thursday assured workers of the Foreign Affairs Ministry that the government would soon relocate them to an appropriate accommodation so they could continue with their work.

“We have already had consultations with some officials and very soon we will let you know what our position is. But my word of advice to you is that do not be discouraged, I know that we are determined to do something for you,” President Mills said.

President Mills arrived at the premises of the burnt ministry three minutes after Vice President John Dramani Mahama had arrived at 0925 hours to ascertain the extent of damage caused by Wednesday night’s fire.

He said a committee would be set up to investigate the cause of the disaster. “I am not interested in scapegoats or witch-hunting. I am only interested in the truth and once it is unearthed, we will know how to deal with cases of this nature,” the President said.

President Mills expressed concern over the capacity of Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) and described their lack of preparedness to disaster as “worrying”. “When I say preparedness, I am not putting blame on them. It is quite clear that we need to give them the right kind of equipment,” President Mills said.

He pledged government’s commitment to equip the GNFS to be able to respond effectively to disasters. President Mills urged the workers at the Ministry to muster courage and to be forward looking. He said: “My word to you is that you must have courage, we will do what is proper so that you can continue to work in peace and safety. Be assured that your security is indeed safeguarded by government.”

Vice President Mahama was visibly shocked at the scale of the disaster. He joined President Mills and other government officials as they were showed round the gutted building. The officials included Mr Cletus Avokah, the Interior Minister, Ms Betty Mould-Iddrisu, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr Albert Abongo, Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing and Mr John Newman, the Chief of Staff.

Mr Abongo told journalists that what came to his mind when he heard the news on Wednesday evening was the disaster that hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in the United States of America eight years ago.

“This is so shocking that a very vital ministry like the Foreign Affairs Ministry could be gutted by fire like it had. This should be declared a national disaster,” he said, wiping his sweat-laden face dry in disbelief.

He said there was the need to re-examine the capacity of the GNFS to respond to emergencies in order to avert any future recurrence. When asked whether his ministry was well equipped to respond to such a disaster, Mr Abongo said: “We all have to examine that. I am sure that does not exist in my ministry.” Earlier Mr Paul Tawiah Quaye, the Inspector General of Police, visited the place at 0825 GMT.

He was escorted around the safe zone of the edifice by Deputy Commissioner of Police Rose Atinga, Accra Regional Commander of the Ghana Police Service, in the company of some fire service persons.

Briefing the IGP on the extent of damage caused by the disaster, Assistant Divisional Officer of the GNFS Headquarters in Accra, Philip Ansah, expressed worry at the fact that the fire fighters were ill-equipped. ADO Ansah said one of the fire fighters had an electrical shock in his zeal to quench the fire but he is alive.

He told the IGP that though fire tenders from Madina, Trade Fair, Tema, Weija and the Ghana Armed Forces came to help, the fire raged on. The IGP tasked DCOP Rose Atinga to form a special task force to investigate the cause of the fire disaster.

“If the cause was accidental, we will build the needed capacity to prevent a future occurrence. But if it was deliberate, then we will get to the bottom of the matter and bring the culprits to book,” the IGP said.

DCOP Atinga said some people are saying the fire was caused by arsonists and others are saying it was a result of a faulty air conditioning. “We are looking at all possibilities, so our doors are open and anybody who has any information as to the cause of this (should come forward).”

DCOP Atinga said the police would not relent in their efforts to get to the bottom of the disaster. In another development, she said three people, who were strangers at the building at the time the fire started, had been arrested as investigations continued.

Meanwhile, some workers of the Foreign Affairs Ministry were spotted dumbfounded as a result of the disaster. “I don’t understand why fire that started at the first floor of the building could creep up to the top floor,” one middle-aged man said almost in tears.

Another visibly shocked worker said, “All our efforts and hard work has gone to waste.” The fire, which started at about 1700 hours in Wednesday, gutted the building and other furnishings of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Workers called the GNFS, but it took a long time for them to respond, a senior officer at the Ministry who spoke to the Ghana News Agency on condition of anonymity said. He said the workers attempted to fight the fire with available fire extinguishers but to no avail as the fire was aided by strong winds.

When the firemen arrived they could do very little because they lacked the basic equipment to fight the fire which had engulfed the building. Jet spray from their fire tenders could not reach the third floor. No casualty has been reported.

Source: GBC NEWS

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