SPECIAL REPORT: The 13 stories behind the fatality statistics in the Appiatse explosion  

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No one has found any metal bar or a torque arm or any sizeable part of the truck that exploded in Appiatse, a community near Bogoso in the Western Region 

Loaded with rock-shattering mining explosives, the truck pulverised—nearly. The blast distributed the truck into little, hot metallic debris, lodged into soft human bodies—the neck, legs, stomach, and at least one victim’s anus, Appiatse Relief Committee’s Public Relations Officer, ThyWill Quarshie, told The Fourth Estate.

This metal object was removed from the anus of one of the victims.

The explosion fractured bones and flattened buildings.

The impact sent hundreds crashing to the ground, but 13 never got up. And some of those who never got up were not collected in one piece. A hand here. A leg there. And a head there. Others are too gory to describe.

It was January 20, 2022. And Appiatse, an obscure village without any notable regional significance, was shot into national prominence for the wrong reason.

Aerial view of Appiatse, showing the impact of the blast

The deadly explosion happened when a motorcycle reportedly collided with a truck carrying explosives. The result was explosive.

 Ella Baidoo was 15-months old

Ella Baidoo stood little chance when the burning truck parked not too far from her mother’s shop

“Ella was always smiling, playing, and repeating words after me,” her mother, Theodora, recalls. Theodora ran a small mobile money kiosk in Appiatse. That was where Ella was playing with another child. As she played, her mother was on the phone with Ella’s 28-year-old father, Emmanuel Baidoo. He is a mechanic and was out of town.

Almost suddenly, Theodora said she saw a moving ball of fire screech to a halt, parked on the same stretch of road where her shop was. She said she bundled her daughter and her playmate in a frenzied attempt to move to a safe distance.

All she remembered was a loud explosion as a building caved in on her and the children. Later that afternoon, Theodora Baidoo called her husband.

“Emmanuel, Ella is dead,” she said.

Emmanuel was distraught, abandoned work, and headed home. He lost his daughter and his home. His five-year-old niece, Kate Afranie, had to be airlifted to the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, over 300 kilometres away, for emergency treatment.

Ella’s mother, Theodora Baidoo

His sister, 35-year-old Patience Baidoo, who sold food at Appiatse lost one eye in the Appiatse explosion.

Appiatse is a mining community situated along the Tarkwa-Bogoso-Ayamfuri road in the Western Region. Its proximity to the road gives the village an economic advantage because they are able to buy and sell.

A 43-year-old farmer, Kwabena Appiatse, who bears the same name as the village explained how the village got its name. “The town was named after my father’s uncle”, he said, after we found him in the company of victims of the disaster who have now been camped at Dumase.

The name is a combination of two Akan words: “Appea” (a male name) and “tse” (stays/lives). The name of the village means “Appiah lives here”, an explanation other residents also confirmed to The Fourth Estate.

Cheered up by how the history of the town is associated with his name, Kwabena Appiatse was also saddened by how the tragedy also claimed the life of his mother.

Akua Nyame, 80years

Kwabena Appiatse’s mother was an octogenarian who was too weak to move when the blast shook the foundations of the houses, collapsing many. Kwabena Appiatse said he had gone to his cocoa farm with his wife. On their way home, they heard a blast. “I did not dare to run down to find my family,” he said.

Kwabena Appiatse is a cocoa farmer

Kwabena said they stayed away in the farms until sunset, and came back home to find that his mother, Akua Nyame, was among the dead. She was in the same room as Kwabena’s sister. She was unwell and resting.

But at the sound of the loud blast, the shackles of sickness fell off, and she run out for her life. The building collapsed after she left the room and killed her mother.

The deceased Akua Nyame was recognised in the village as a birth attendant and also experienced in traditional medicines. Her body was found at sunset, coloured in cement dust.

Michael Afriyie, 19years

Michael Afriyie is a teenager and breadwinner for his mother

Michael Afriyie was one of the curious bystanders who stayed close to the burning truck carrying the explosives. Many of them were filming the accident with their phones and running commentary in Twi. Michael Afriyie’s last moments on earth were captured in one of those videos. The teenager was wearing a Nigerian national football team jersey.

Michael was the fifth of six children born to 56-year-old Martha Ahoahe. He apprenticed as an electrical repairer. But that day he did not go to work, his mother said.

Instead, they went to her pepper farm to water it as temperatures soared. She said she returned home with her son and indulged in one of her favourite itineraries of the day—watching the news.

“I switched on the TV and Michael stepped out to buy food,” she said.

Michael soon rushed back to alert her mother of a burning truck by the roadside and then rushed out again to fill a gaping curiosity. Several of the victims who spoke to The Fourth Estate said they did not know the truck carried explosives.

So when they stood by, they did not believe they were in any great harm watching the fireball from a distance which they thought was safe. Michael was caught in the ensuing blast and died instantly.

He was the only, among his siblings, one who lived with his mother in Appiaste. “I will miss Michael dearly,” Martha agonised over her loss. “He was my breadwinner when there was nothing at home.”

Emmanuel Quainoo, 29years

Emmanuel Quainoo was popularly known as Oboye

Emmanuel Quainoo, a carpenter was fasting on that day. His wife, Diana Assandoh, told The Fourth Estate he was fasting in memory of his late father who had died just around the same period in 2021. It is customary that after the anniversary of the passing, the family meets to unveil the tomb.

Diana said days before the disaster, her husband while at Bepo, an adjoining village, had received a message from his pastor. She said the pastor had directed him to fast ahead of the unveiling. So the couple fasted. Diana said she did not go out to sell plantain that day. Sitting on a bench, the couple broke the fast at midday. Emmanuel went inside to pray.

Emmanuel and Diana in happier times

However, the electrical wiring in the house began acting funny. They came out to put off all electrical gadgets as news of a burning truck filtered through the village.

The two went off to find their three children. Diana said when they found the children, she left her husband standing by a church building in the middle of the town.

That was when the explosion happened.  “The blast lifted him off the ground and something slashed the stomach,” she recounted.

His intestines gushed out.

Emmanuel Quainoo sustained a deep cut on his stomach and was rushed to a hospital where there were efforts to save him. Diana said she saw her husband at the hospital and believed he would survive. The next day, she was told, Emmanuel Quainoo had passed.

“I have been crying a lot and I find it difficult to sleep,” Emmanuel’s mother mourned his son, the second of five children.

Her husband, Emmanuel’s father, died on February 17, 2021.  Her son died on January 20, 2022, fresh month of agony for the old woman who was about to be reminded of the pain of losing her husband.

 

Martin Kweku, 43years

Daniel Kweku was an elder of The Church of Pentecost

Martin Kweku lives in Atuabo in Tarkwa. The 43-year old businessman also deals in gold buying and was on his way to buying the precious metal when he was involved in the tragedy. He was an elder of The Church of Pentecost. He left behind his wife and two young children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enoch Obeng, 40years

Enoch Obeng is the fourth of five children born to parents who are now too frail to work on their farms.

Before the disaster, the family had already lost three of the children, leaving Enoch and his sister, Marian Obeng-Baah.

Being the man of the two, the responsibility of taking care of his parents disproportionately fell on him. With two children to look after as a single father, the need for the JHS graduate to develop multiple streams of income was apparent.

He did some alluvial mining after completing JSS at a Roman Catholic school in the community. He then went into cocoa farming. His farm was at Baakoyemobo. He also did some odd jobs here and there.

On the day of the calamity, he bid goodbye to his brother-in-law at Bogoso, indicating he was leaving for Appiatse for some work with his friends who are masons. The family later heard he was numbered among the fatalities.

Enoch Obeng left behind two children.

Daniel Armah, 35years

Daniel Armah

Daniel could not complete his senior high school education. He eventually found work as a taxi driver in Wiawso in the Western North Region, his brother Eric Ackaah told The Fourth Estate. Daniel wanted to up his driving experience to handle buses that ply long routes.

He started as a mate (conductor) on one such long-distance bus. On one of those journeys, he was making a 220-km trip from Takoradi to Wiawso. The bus uses the Bogoso road through Appiatse. It is not clear why Daniel was not on the bus, but rather on the ground in Appiatse.

When the blast happened Daniel was pierced in his ribs and his wrist by an unidentified object. “He died later of internal bleeding,” a doctor who performed an autopsy on him told the family

According to Eric Ackaah, the doctor told the family that Daniel did not receive early treatment following the blast. “He was not managed well,” Eric reported.

Daniel was a member of The Church of Pentecost, a man who stayed out of trouble. He was survived by a wife, Rita Marfo, who is a trader and three children, twin boys— aged four years and a one-year-old girl.

Eric Gyimah, 24 years

Eric Gyimah was the eldest of a family of five siblings

Eric Gyimah’s father, Emmanuel Gyimah, gave The Fourth Estate this account concerning his son:

Eric was his first of five children. He lived in Takoradi and worked at Stella Logistics, near the VIP Station in Takoradi.

On Monday, January 17, 2022, his father, a driver, picked up his son to drop him off at work as was the usual practice. Eric was going to supply some logistics and was going to be away until Thursday, January 20, 2022

His father was also going to be away until Friday. The two planned that when Eric returned on Thursday, and his father on Friday, they would go and do some work on land they had acquired.

But his father did not return on Thursday. “I heard the news on Friday morning,” he said.

Emmanuel Gyimah said he loved his son because he was an obedient boy. He revealed how he struggled to get his son a job at Omega Logistics after Eric completed Takoradi Technical Institute, having studied electrical wiring but was not getting jobs.

His son also loved their last born, a toddler named Kwame, because he was his only brother among the five children. Before leaving for the trip, Eric Gyimah had paid Kwame’s school fees in fulfilment of his promise that he would see his younger brother through school.

It was not to be.

Ebenezer Anan Jackson, 43yrs

Portia Amakye a 24-year-old trader said she met Ebenezer Jackson, a mason when he came to do some masonry work where she lived in Appiatse. A romantic relationship developed, and in 2018, the two got married. They had two children, a six-year-old girl, and a three-year-old boy. When billows of smoke clutched the sky on that ill-fated day, it aroused Ebenezer’s curiosity so he went to the scene of the burning truck.

A tyre had come off blazing and landed in front of a shop. Ekow went in to help put out the fire from the tyre. Portia said she saw her husband standing on the other side of the road, opposite the burning truck.

She said they did not know the truck carried explosives. At the sound of the blast, she fell unconscious, her husband fell dead.

She sustained injuries and had a surgical procedure performed on her waist area.

Ebenezer Anan Jackson was buried on March 5, 2022, at Kwamankese near Mankessim in the Central Region.

Isaac Buayin, 45years

An old photo of Isaac Buayin is among the few photos his family have of him after the blast destroyed his home and took his life.

John Buayin said he rushed to Appiatse from another town to look for his wife and children after he heard of the blast. He found out that a building had collapsed on his entire nuclear family.

“My wife was the one whose hand was sticking out of a rabble in the video,” he told The Fourth Estate. Eventually, they survived. But his elder brother, Isaac Buayin, a barber, was found in the rubble, dead. He left behind two children.

John’s wife got blinded by the blast. She is a food vendor who lamented the immediate change in her physical condition.

 

Isaac Anane, 35years

Isaac Anane

Hannah Antwi, a 28-year-old cook, said she lost her husband, Isaac Anane, a carpenter. She was out of town doing some work on the day of the disaster. She was only informed her husband was among the casualties. She only saw her husband unconscious and bleeding at the Tarkwa Government Hospital.

“I saw him but I could not speak to him,” she said. Isaac died the next day. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Emmanuel Awinguda, 24years

Emmanuel was preparing to take a bath and leave for town. He did not get to take the bath, he got to leave for eternity.

Emmanuel Awinguda worked as a farmhand and also did some mining, according to his girlfriend, Mabel, who said she had come from the Northern Region to spend some days with him. On that fateful day, the two went to Bepo, a nearby town, where Emmanuel had a haircut. They returned and decided to go to Bogoso.

Mabel said she went to fetch water to take a bath when she saw the burning truck screech to a halt by the side of the road, not too far from where they lived.

“I told him that we should go and take our bags from the room before something bad happened,” she said. “But he held my hand and asked what if something happened while we were inside the room. He said we should stay outside so that if something happened, we could run away.”

In a split second, the blast threw them to the ground. “I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t hear anything for a moment,” Mabel recalled. She saw Emmanuel on the ground too, “he dragged himself to lean by a collapsed building and told me to just lie down.”

Mabel was rushed into a car that sent casualties to the hospital. But Emmanuel did not survive from the injuries to his stomach.

“They said there were several piercings in his stomach,” his girlfriend said.

Justice Kwesi Takwa, 21years

Perhaps the most popular of the victims, Justice was loved in the community and was praised for his serviceability.

When senior high schools resumed in January 2021 after Covid-19, Justice did not join his mates. During the break, he took to commercial tricycle riding and had tasted the empowerment that money brings.

His parents gave up on trying to get him back to school. His mother was at least happy that their son was earning a living and he was also supporting the home. As time went by, Justice met a young woman, Doris, and the two started a relationship.

On Wednesday, January 19, 2022, Doris said she came to visit Justice and left in the evening to Bepo, where she stayed with her family. Justice promised to visit her the following day, Thursday.

 

 

 

Doris said, from her home in Bepo she could see the disaster. When Michael was not picking up her calls, she said she got worried. She grew even more fearful when someone told her family not to allow her to go to Appiatse. Later, her worst fear was confirmed. “They told me he was dead, lying by the side of the road.”

Justice and Doris

Justice Takwa was an expectant father. Doris is five months pregnant.

The Appiatse Relief Committee has announced March 11, 2022, as the mass burial date for the deceased. The Committee is covering some of the funeral costs of the bereaved families.

The Appiatse Relief Committee on March 3, 2022, began disbursing Gh¢6000 to each bereaved family for the burial while each of the 895 affected residents got Gh¢200.

Food donations from companies, humanitarian and religious organisations and individuals have continued since the incident.

In the meantime, displaced persons have been camped on land belonging to a mining company in the area. These places of abode will be temporary. Another committee, the Appiatse Reconstruction Committee, has begun the task of rebuilding a community destroyed by what many analysts call carelessness on the part of those carrying the explosives.

Some of the buildings are being roofed as temporary homes for the displaced.

The disaster raised questions about safety regulations surrounding the transport of delicate, dangerous mining logistics such as explosives.

And while the blast is becoming history to the rest of the nation, the shockwaves are not. They continue to vibrate throughout the lives of the people. All roofs in the community were blown away and some families are still nursing otherwise able-bodied relatives who have been maimed.

Many of the 13 who died were once breadwinners.

You may contact the writer on [email protected] or  [email protected]

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