Rescue workers carry a body from the remains of a gas station that exploded in Accra, Ghana. The following day, June 5, Pope Francis sent "heartfelt condolences" to the citizens of Ghana. CNS photo/Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Reuters

Pope sends condolences to Ghana after gas explosion, flooding

By  Laura Ieraci, Catholic News Service
  • June 5, 2015

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis sent "heartfelt condolences" to the citizens of Ghana after at least 150 people were killed in a gas explosion in the country's capital, Accra.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent the message on the Pope's behalf June 5; it was addressed to Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu of Konongo-Mampong, president of the Ghanaian bishops' conference.

The blast occurred June 4. According to media reports, officials said the explosion was caused by flooding from days of torrential rains that swept fuel stored at the gas station into a fire at a nearby house. Most of the victims were people who had sought shelter from the rain at the gas station. The blast also set neighbouring buildings ablaze. Officials said the death toll may rise.

In the message, Cardinal Parolin said the Pope extended his condolences to the relatives of the victims, "commends the souls of the departed to almighty God and willingly invokes the divine gifts of consolation and strength upon those who mourn and upon all who have been affected by this tragedy."

Ghana will observe three days of mourning, starting June 8. The explosion was the worst tragedy to hit Ghana since 2001, when more than 120 people were killed in a stampede at a sports stadium.

In a separate statement June 5, Ghana's bishops said: "We believe that we can rise from this tragedy and put our acts together to forestall future mishaps of such magnitude. Actions we take today can carry great hope for the future. Let us all help in building a better Ghana."

They said the country had not done a good job in long-term planning to avoid the perennial problem of flooding in the capital.

"Year in and year out, the same situation keeps recurring without any concrete practical steps being taken to address it holistically. This latest incident should be a wake-up call for us to be up and doing and not only pay lip service to the phenomenon of flooding in Ghana."

The bishops called for the re-planning of towns and cities and said building permits should not be given to people to build houses on water courses.

"Every Ghanaian must be ready to learn and accept the fact that when we flout our laws, we will all one day inevitably face the consequences of such an act," the bishops said.

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