IDF sends search and rescue crew to Ghana after mall collapse

Dozens feared trapped in rubble in Accra shopping center

The rubble of the collapsed building in Ghana on Wednesday. (photo credit: AP/ Christian Thompson)
The rubble of the collapsed building in Ghana on Wednesday. (photo credit: AP/ Christian Thompson)

The Israel Defense Forces was scheduled to send a search and rescue team to Ghana Wednesday night after a shopping center collapse in the African country’s capital earlier in the day left dozens trapped.

The army search and rescue force of doctors, engineers and other experts, 18 people in total, were to be flown to Accra late Wednesday night to assist in rescue attempts, the IDF said on its website. Some 68 people have so far been pulled from the rubble of the shopping center, with four confirmed dead.

Ghanaian officials on Thursday blamed faulty construction for the collapse of the five-story building in Accra. They said they expect the death toll to rise.

Kate Adobaya, a spokeswoman for Ghana’s National Disaster Management Organization, blamed the building collapse on structural weakness.

“The foundation was not good enough,” she said, adding that crews worked in shifts through the night to search for other possible victims.

President John Dramani Mahama toured the scene Wednesday and told reporters those responsible for the building’s collapse would be punished.

“The [Israeli] team will make an initial assessment of the site using special equipment and sniffer dogs that will help identify the locations of possible survivors or corpses,” according to a statement signed by the president’s spokesman.

The Magen David Adom rescue service was also expected to send a delegation to Ghana to set up a field hospital, Ynet news reported.

In Accra, rescue crews used cranes to try and remove debris from the top of the five-story building amid fears that machinery sifting through the wreckage could injure trapped survivors. Crowds of bystanders gathered as rescuers sifted through cement and glass.

“We are still working to find out the fate of others who may be trapped under,” said Billy Anaglate, public affairs officer of the Ghana Fire Service.

An AP reporter at the scene saw at least one man pulled from the debris, covered in dust and who was then whisked into an ambulance.

The Melcom Shopping Center in Achimota, a suburb of Accra, opened in February and is part of the Melcom chain owned by Indian immigrant magnate, Bhagwan Khubchandani. His late father arrived in Ghana in 1929 as a 14-year-old to work as a store boy in the-then Gold Coast.

The store sells a variety of cheap, imported household goods and appliances that are popular with working-class Ghanaians.

Israel often offers its medical and search and rescue expertise to countries in the wake of disasters, including in Haiti and Japan in the last several years.

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