The Melcom Collapse, the Tip of the Iceberg?

Waking up this morning was painful. All day yesterday, we were onlookers to what seemed like the most unnecessary catastrophe and its excruciatingly slow rescuing process, still ongoing. A six storey building holding a department store collapsed in the morning trapping and crushing many inside.

Exactly when and how many are affected, we still do not know. Some reports say the building collapsed just as the store was about to open other reports say when it had already opened and hence the scale of this disaster is still unknown.

The news spread like wildfire around the globe, but under the rubble our sisters and brothers were – and are – still stuck. The rescuing scene seemed chaotic – it was broadcast live on TV. As one of Ghana’s most popular shops had burst open in a bustling business area, there was a large crowd surrounding the scene that seemed curious and in some cases in shock. We had scattered reports about looting, equipments missing, and cracks in the building seen and ignored.

This morning the report came that the building had no building permit. A six storey building smack in the middle of a vivid business area. No building permit. What do we make of this?

On Twitter the discussion flowed back and forth:

Radiostation Joy FM asked on Facebook:

“The Collapsed MELCOM Shop in Achimota like Many Other Disasters, Has Got Ghana Talking. But As We Talk, More Such Weak Structures Are Left Standing and Being Used…. Tell Us Of Disasters Which You Know Are Just Waiting To Happen in Ghana!”

Their post had 136 comments last time I checked. Some of the comments cover other commercial buildings and even schools!

This morning, this is all I can think about. Is the Melcom collapse not a freak accident, but the tip of  the iceberg? Are there hundreds or thousands of similar death traps masking as buildings open to the public out there?

Why do Ghanaians have to risk their lives when going to work, when going to buy everyday items, when attending school? 

The institutions to maintain standards, to follow the laws are there, but why are they failing Ghanaians and who is in charge?

Follow #Melcomcollapse on Twitter for updates.

Pic borrowed from Talk of GH.



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  1. Very much agreed.

    I hope that we are able to learn from this, and find justice for the victims by creating reform in the system. Personally, I’m terrified to return to my apartment in Accra: located in a high-rise. Regardless of what the government says now, I can’t help but wonder if they’ll actually follow-through and whether any of us are really safe.

    I hope you’re right, I hope this is the tip of the iceberg and we’re able to fix things before another tragedy strikes.

    I wrote a post from my position as a publicist, and my absolute shock and disappointment in the handling this crisis by Melcom on my blog:


  2. This Melcom collapse highlights a big problem in the building industry in Ghana. I can say with some degree of certainty that more than 50% of new buildings in Ghana do not have building permit and more than 70% are not fully registered with the Land Title Registry and so do not have a title deed. The reason is that the process of acquiring a building permit is so bereaucratic that most people give up half way through the process and go ahead to put up the building. With single storey buildings except for the fact that the building may be wrongly located a site earmarked for a school or future road etc it is not as dangerous. However when it comes to a multi-storey building then the input of architects and engineers are very necesary and hence a building permit is non-negotiable. In 2006 I witnessed a situation whereby my sister built her house in a new area in Accra and it took her more than two years to obtain a building permit. By the time she was ready to extend electricity to the area her house was the only one in the area that qualified to apply for electricity to be extended there because she was the only one with building permit in the area. I don’t know whether all the houses in the neighbourhood now have building permit but you can see how serious the situation is. I think AMA engineers should examine all multi-storey buildings in Accra to ensure that they are structurally sound and that they all have building permits. If they don’t and buildings are not structurally sound then they should be bulldozed down before they cause damage to any more people. And this is an issue that should not be subjected to politicking to allow the officials to do their work without fear or favour no matter the personalities involved.