A CROSS-section of Ghanaians and representatives of foreign governments from far and near, yesterday, converged at the forecourt of the State House for a memorial service to climax three-days of national mourning of the more than 160 souls that perished in last week Wednesday’s flood and fire disaster in Accra.
Among the dignitaries were President John Mahama and his wife, Lordina, Vice-President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur and his wife, Matilda, former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor, Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, and the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood.
The solemn service also attracted families of the dead, Ministers of State, Parliamentarians, the diplomatic corps, the clergy, Muslim clerics, traditional rulers, heads of the security agencies and representatives of the political parties.
Christian and Muslim intercessory prayers were said for the President and the national leadership for divine guidance and fortitude, for the surviving victims and for the bereaved families.
Hymns and exhortations also characterized the service, amidst occasional uncontrollable wailing by some bereaved families present.
President Mahama, in his remarks, noted that the aftermath of the devastating floods should not be a time for apportioning blame, but instead, there was the need to focus on measures to be taken to lessen the impact of future floods.
He said the effects of climate change were causing flooding in various parts of the world, but was quick to add that the Accra, floods was exacerbated by human activities.
“We must learn from the past so as to learn from the inevitable events of the future,” he counselled, hinting that plans were afoot for an elaborate drainage system for Accra, while funds had been allocated for damaged roads and other public infrastructure.
President Mahama said relief and other humanitarian efforts would be intensified, and directed that all cash donations from corporate organisations and individuals be made at a National Co-ordination Centre located at the Regional Co-ordinating Council.
He hinted that the names of those who lost their lives would be released to the public, and DNA tests conducted on the bodies that had not yet been identified.
Mr. Mahama further said that tests would be run on bodies burnt beyond recognition, and urged the affected families to be forth-coming with DNA samples to aid identification.
Recalling the gory spectacle that greeted him and his team during their inspection of the disaster scenes a day after the mishap, the President said it dawned on him that “God is not a respecter of persons”.
He, therefore, underscored the need for problems confronting the country to be tackled in unison, devoid of ethnic and political divisiveness.
He described the national loss as “incomprehensible” and lauded security agencies which undertook rescue missions and individuals who lent helping hands at the peril of their lives.
President Mahama also expressed appreciation for the messages of condolences from other nations, especially Togo, La Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal which donated in cash and kind in support of the surviving victims.
In a homily, the Reverend Eastwood Anaba of the Fountain Gate Chapel, stressed the importance of dealing with the disaster challenges with a united force and reconciliation rather than indulging in accusations and counter-accusations.
He noted that in times like this, concerted efforts such as even seeking collaboration and expertise from outside the shores of the country, would not be out of place.
Rev. Anaba said: “Ghana is in a state of mourning but weeping does not solve problems; our engineers, doctors and contractors must be able to deal with challenges like this.
“Though Ghana is a nation of prayer, let us add positive action to the prayer. This mourning should not end our action towards the sick/injured. We must continue to improve every aspect of our society until things like this don’t happen again,” he said
Rev. Anaba was of the belief that the strong-willed character of the Ghanaian would help brave the storm and overcome the national catastrophe.
By Samuel Nuamah