Life amidst risk - Storm drains remain uncovered
The disturbing presence of many uncovered storm drains and underground utility vaults in many areas in Accra is making the capital an unsafe city to live in, especially for women and children.
Today, many storm drains, underground utility vaults and other drains in the city have big and small uncovered openings that have been left unattended to for a long time, making them potential death traps.
Worriedly, most of these drains that have no concrete slabs or metal drain grates are often found in the pathway of pedestrians and cyclists who are faced with the daily risk of falling into them and getting either killed or maimed for life.
Some of the drains are covered partially with old car tyres, stones, blocks, wooden boards and sticks tied with red cloth, but the danger these holes pose to the public is compounded by the alarming number of malfunctioning street lights, frequent power outages in the evening and the submersion of such openings during the least rainfall.
Common sight traps
When the Daily Graphic visited Adabraka, Pig Farm, the Central Business District, Achimota, the Tema Station, the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Nima, Kawukudi, Dome and Madina, uncovered drains, gutters with piercing iron rods and underground utility vaults belonging mostly to Vodafone Ghana and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) were a common sight.
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At Adabraka, some of the storm drains had the steel drain grids covering them stolen, rusted or removed by flood waters, compromising the safety of residents, especially young children, who face a daily danger of slipping into them and dying young or getting maimed.
“It appears the city authorities are waiting for a tragedy to occur before they take any action, since many of the storm drains in Adabraka have, for years, remained uncovered,” Mr Eric Amponsah, a mechanic, told the Daily Graphic.
A victim’s gnashing experience
A number of the storm drains along the Barnes Road from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to the Holy Spirit Cathedral at Adabraka were without steel drain grids, a situation that led to the Programmes Officer of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection breaking a leg.
Sharing her experience, Mrs Comfort Baidoo recounted that about 8 p.m. on June 19, 2018, she fell into one of the uncovered drains close to Databank after she had closed from choir practice at the Adabraka Calvary Methodist Church.
She said she broke the bones in her right leg — the fibula and tibia — that caused the lower portion to hang loose, a pain she described as the most “excruciating I have ever had in my life”.
She was rushed to the Greater Accra Hospital at Ridge where she underwent surgery for two pieces of metal to be inserted into her leg to repair the fractured bones.
Because the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) does not cover orthopaedic expenses, she said she had to spend all her life savings and investment of GH25,000 on “expensive surgery, injections, drugs and hospitalisation, hiring of taxis to and from the hospital”.
“As a civil servant, it took a number of years to gather that investment and it has taken just a few months to wipe it away. Right now, with metal plates in my leg, I am unable to go to the office early and I can’t go places I used to go because when the pains become too much, I have to stay indoors.
“The incident has affected me economically and socially and I have lost my physical strength now,” she said.
Nima storm drain a death trap
At Nima and Kawokudi, the 1.2-kilometre Nima-Maamobi storm drain is a death trap to residents of Nima and Maamobi.
During a walk along the drain by this reporter last week, in the company of some residents of the area, it was seen that no less than 18 of the holes on top of the drain had no concrete slabs covering them, in spite of the fact that schoolchildren from the two areas use the drain as access route to their schools at Kawokudi,
Burma Camp and the 37 Military Hospital area.
Out of frustration, and to protect the lives of mostly children, women and the aged, the residents have been compelled to cover some of the deep holes with old blocks, weak wood and iron mesh.
“Since the construction of this storm drain, 13 residents and 26 pupils and students — 10 from the
37 Military Hospital Basic School, 10 from the Flagstaff House Basic School and six from the Base Ordnance Depot Basic School at El Wak — have fallen into it.
“Of those who fell into the drain, six, including schoolchildren, lost their lives, while others were injured.
When someone falls into the drain and is being carried away by flood water, we cannot rescue that person unless we rush to the end of the drain where there is a wide opening to allow the residents to tie a rope across and bring the person out of the water.
“We were able to rescue some of the children alive, but the bodies of others were washed away by the floods,” a resident recounted.
To avoid more deaths, another resident, Kweku Pamfo, said the Maamobi Stool and residents of Nima made several appeals to the Ayawaso East Municipal Assembly to assist the communities to cover the openings of the drains, but to no avail.
“We then contacted a businessman, Alhaji Abubakari Dabre, who helped us to cover some of the openings,” he added.
When the Daily Graphic visited some of the streets at Pig Farm, Dzorwolu and the Airport Residential Area, a number of underground utility vaults belonging to the ECG and Vodafone Ghana were seen along the pavements uncovered.
The Daily Graphic contacted the Head of External Affairs of Vodafone Ghana, Mr Gayheart Mensah, he denied that the company had any uncovered underground utility vaults in the city that posed a threat to the public.
“Our underground vaults have heavy concrete slabs that make it impossible for anybody to remove them to steal our cables,” he said, and challenged the Daily Graphic to produce photos to prove him wrong.
When the Daily Graphic subsequently produced photos that showed underground utility vaults embossed with the letters ‘P&T’ and ‘GT’, he said: “Those photos you’ve sent are definitely ours.”