A strange explosion, in what eyewitnesses strongly suspect to be that of a bomb, has rocked Bolgatanga, Upper East regional capital.
The bang erupted around 7:30am Sunday at Zorbiisi, a community where the offices of the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) and the official residence of the Upper East Regional Minister are situated.
The sound of the blast could be heard and felt in many areas several miles away from the community, sparking a far-reaching wave of terror. A chain of mushroom-shaped clouds of black soil mixed with fireballs went sky-high, hanging in the air for several minutes before they slowly dispersed. Shortly after, heavy tons of debris that also went up with the explosion clouds returned to earth, resettling on some roofs as well as the baobab and the neem trees around the area.
“We suspect that it’s bomb. The sound alone tells that it’s a bomb. It’s the same sound like a bomb. When I came and saw the thing, my heart had a deep shock. That’s someone’s trousers hanging. How can a trouser climb a tree? How can rubbers climb a tree? You can see rubbers and other things hanging,” Osman Baba, an eyewitness, and resident of the community, told Starr News.
The sudden boom disrupted a lot of activities. Motorists, not sure about what was happening, had to divert to safety, and some who were easing themselves in the bush said they had to “summarise” as the reverberation sent animals, mostly wild birds, out of their homes.
Police and officials of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) moved to the scene soon after anxious members of the community, led by a youth leader in the area, Frederick Ayine, reported the alarm to the Bolgatanga Municipal Police Command.
Water engineers held responsibly The development inflamed the fury of members of the community who say the occupants of a private residence within the area are to blame for the explosion.
One of the occupants, who gave his name to Starr News as Obeng Atuah and identified himself as a water consultant, is said to have dumped a sack containing some unidentified stuff in a pit just before the explosion erupted from the same pit.
The angry residents stormed the house and reportedly locked the suspects indoors to demand an explanation as to what material was dumped in the pit. They surrounded the building as they waited impatiently for the arrival of the police.
“People saw him. The thing was in a sack. And he put it there. And the moment he put it there, he moved. It means he knew if the thing was to be in their rooms, it may blast there. So, he had to bring it out to kill innocent people. Meanwhile, they sell food and other things around. We would not even talk about children who often play around that pit. We the grownups, it could happen that you come and buy food and on your way going back it would happen you would end your life here.
If I had been here early, I would have slaughtered them (the suspects). They are not giving us concrete explanations. They are taking us as fools,” Osman Baba (mentioned earlier) protested.
Depth of damage still unknown
The level of damage is still unknown as officials of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) are yet to appear at the scene for assessment. And no life has been reported yet to have been lost.
But Starr News can report that a number of louvred windows to some buildings broke into pieces, foundation blocks developed crack lines and the windscreens to some cars were destroyed by the impact of the explosion. Whilst some are yet to recover from the trauma that hit them as the blast shook many foundations far away, some have complained they got injured whilst diving for cover.
“There was a massive shake. It was like an earthquake. The smoke was up. Houses shook. You can see that all the louvres are broken. In fact, we are in a state of fear. When we heard the blast, we quickly put off the lights,” Christopher Abankorigo, a resident, narrated in a panicky tone.
James Atanga, a retailer around the spot of the blast, said the boom had reduced his shop to a deathtrap, pointing at some cracks in the foundation blocks and damaged portions of the roof. His nearby business counterpart, Grace Abaa, who sells porridge, said she sustained an injury after the eruption.
“We were here when the man came. He was holding a sack. Then, he came and put it inside the pit. He was going back. He didn’t even get there (his residence) when the thing [blasted]. Then, we ran away. The thing even affected my legs,” she said.
Suspects deny allegations
There were about four occupants in the building. Mr Atuah, whom the community members fingered as mainly responsible for the explosion, said he did not dump anything in the pit before the bang.
“What is the intention of keeping explosives? I am a water engineer. And all I do is do designs and supervise contractors. Yes, the blast assumes that. But we don’t know the cause. It’s also possible that somebody might have dropped something there overnight. I am a water consultant. We won a contract to do Small Town Water System projects. We have been here since early 2012. And we just handed most of the projects. We are just packing to hand over the house with some few final reports. There was a chunk of A4 papers and newspapers we decided to burn yesterday.
“This morning I realised there was still fire in the pit out there. So, I decided to burn the remaining chunk of papers. I went there to have a look whether there was fire or not. So, I said let me organise myself so that the rest of the papers could be burnt. Then all of a sudden we heard ‘gbaain!’ Everybody was running helter-skelter. We are the most affected. Look at my car,” he said, pointing at a car with a cracked windscreen in front of the house as the other occupants were busy packing the damaged accessories aside.
Landowners fear explosion could trigger plagues As police officers and BNI officials were interrogating the suspects and inspecting the area, landowners also arrived at the scene, grey and very angry.
One of them, Ayinlemia Akurugu, told Starr News the explosion would invite the wrath of their ancestors unless some rituals were performed.
He spoke through an interpreter, saying: “What has happened is a sacrilege. Unexplained sounds of an explosion are forbidden in this area.
A lot of things already have been damaged as a result of the blast. If it’s a gunshot, we have got certain rituals we have to perform. If it’s explosive, it has also got its own way to appease the oracles. Strange diseases could break out if we fail to perform the rituals. Strange communal conflicts could also emerge from that failure.”
He also said the suspects were forcibly locked indoors for their own safety, “otherwise the police would have come to pick dead bodies”.