At least 13 people were killed and dozens more injured in western Ghana when a truck loaded with mining explosives detonated. Ghanaian officials say hundreds of houses were damaged in the blast.
Police say a preliminary investigation has established that a truck filled with explosives for mining collided with a motorcycle, resulting in the explosion at Bogoso-Appiatse, a village 300 kilometers west of Accra.
Authorities say 500 buildings were destroyed in the explosion, displacing over 500 people.
Francisca Brobbey, a village resident, told VOA in a phone interview that a loud bang was heard from the street that she thought was a tire bursting. When she saw huge smoke in the sky and fire, she and others started running for safety. She managed to escape with her children, although she sustained minor injuries.
Police say along with the 13 dead, the blast injured 179 people, with at least 45 in critical condition. Initial police reports had put the death toll at 17 people.
The head of the local government assembly, Isaac Dasmani, told reporters that Appiatse is almost a ghost town now as search and rescue operations continue.
"The whole community is gone," he said. "All the roofs have been ripped off and the buildings have collapsed. Some of them were in their rooms and they were trapped and we were able to rescue some of them and some of them unfortunately before we rescued them they were gone. It's a very sad situation for me today."
Ghana's president, Nana Akufo-Addo, and opposition leader John Mahama expressed their condolences in separate statements on social media, describing the incident as a truly sad day in Ghana.
A government delegation led by Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia visited the disaster scene Friday morning. In a brief address to the media, he said the government will provide all the resources to help the victims.
"It's a sad day, a very sad day for all of us," Bawumia said. "Just to assure you that the government is fully engaged in all these processes and we're going to see to it that the people here are taken care of. We'll learn lessons and those are going to be much later on. For now, we're very much concerned about how to complete this rescue effort, how to take care of the injured, how to take care of the family and the people who have survived."
Authorities are expected to launch a probe to establish the cause of the blast, and recommend measures to avoid a repeat in the future.