The Herald, has sighted a Routine Inspection report on the fire-ravaged Kumasi City Market dated March 17, 2022, which revealed a desperate state of affairs of the market, warning that “it is of the outmost importance to correct all the defects presented below, non-action can lead to severe consequences with potential loss of life”.
The 39-page document, suggests that long before the recent fire outbreak which has led to the closure of the market, its contractors had warned about the life-threatening situation at the place but its managers; the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) did nothing to remedy the dangers.
Interestingly, the 2022 report, mentioned damaged firefighting equipment, damaged gas leak systems, spoilt Carbon monoxide sensors, poor ventilations, not operating Closed Circuit Television (CCTC TV) system, broken walls, damaged washroom, leaking ice machines among others.
The report was done in February 2022, but since then there have been two outbreaks.
On Monday October 3, 2022, about 15 shops within the Kumasi Central Market in the Ashanti Region, got destroyed after a fire gutted a shoe-making shop within the market.
Eyewitnesses said the fire started in one shop at around 4 am at dawn and later spread to other shops, destroying thousands of shoe-making materials among other wares.
The Ghana National Fire Service, has established that last Wednesday, March 15, 2023fire which started at 4pm was caused by a trader who was cooking with gas in a shop next door to other shops where turpentine, gunpowder and other combustibles were sold.
A total of about 50 shops were affected out of which 33 were completely burnt and goods estimated at millions of Ghana cedis were burnt. There were no casualties but a few people collapsed due to suffocation and were rushed to hospital.
The fire started from a shop on the second floor of the market and extended to the third floor. Many traders wailed uncontrollably as thick black smoke from the burning shops in the market drifted into the afternoon sky.
But the most despicable, the report said, is the state of the Sewage Treatment System. It said that “the installed sewage system is receiving contaminating residues such as plastics, fabrics and paper, for which it is not designed to receive. The effluent discharge boxes need to be cleaned daily to prevent damage to the effluent discharge pumps.
The Kejetia market is the largest single market in West Africa. It has over 10,000 stores and stalls.
The first phase started in 2015 and was valued at a cost of US$260 million by the Mahama government. It includes an ultra-modern market with 8,420 stores, a clinic, a police station, a mosque, a social and recreational center, I.C.T center, a post office, a fire post, banks, a butchery and a day-care center. It was completed in late 2018.
The report made by the company which put up the project Contracta Group, identified that “numerous issues that are related to misuse, lack of corrective maintenance and lack preventive maintenance”, and stated that there “the most worrisome are the issues related to the firefighting and fire suppression system that are not working as designed”.
It added that “in the case of fire severe consequences can arise that might cause loss of life”.
“The other issues, although not life threatening, have the potential of reducing the life of the project and cause extreme damages to the image of all the entities involved on the process”, it said.
It warned that “it is therefore imperative that Market Management deploys a team for operation and maintenance that is qualified and fully knowledgeable of the procedures defined for the operation and management of the building.
The report submitted to the KMA was among other things “to highlight issues that were identified by the contractor focusing mostly on issues related to safety” as well as correct some erroneous, information presented by the media as defect of construction” although “these issues stem from non-adherence to the operation and maintenance procedures”.
The report revealed the current state of the market firefighting system saying “fire hydrants and fire extinguishers boxes were randomly inspected, and it was identified the absence of accessories and/or fire-fighting equipment in all of them.
It noted that “many of smoke detection sensors have caps, making it impossible to read and use the system in an adequate way. Additionally, some detectors have been damaged and in need of substitution.
“The system of hydrants and sprinklers is depressurized, and the jockey pump have been turned off making the system inoperative”, adding “the manual call points have been damaged and in need of substitution”.
“The hydrant pipe fixing bases have been removed and the pipes are unbalanced and not fixed adequately. This will cause severe leaks in the case of pressurization of the system in case of activation of the main fire pumps.
“The fire alarm control panel backup batteries must be replaced since these no longer can store the charge necessary to operate the system. In the event of a power outage, the system will be turned off and potential fires will not be detected.
On the gas leak detection system, “in random inspections in restaurant and fast-food stores, damaged valves and gas leak sensors were identified. The apparent cause is the proximity of the storage and stock of products. The proper functioning of this equipment is essential for the safety and protection of users in case of possible gas leaks”.
On suggested maintenance procedures, the report said that “the recommendations and guidelines according to the Operation and Maintenance Manual (pages 30 and 31) handed over to the client at the conclusion of the project are not being carried out in their entirety, impairing the good functioning of the installed systems and reducing the useful life of the project.
“It is extremely important that all fire prevention, detection, control, and firefighting systems are kept in working order for safety reasons and in case they need to be used due to possible emergencies”, the report said.
It went to state “it is also very important to mention that the EPA – Environment Protection Association, GNFS – Ghana National Fire Service and Factories and Inspectorates – Ghana Occupational Safety Agency licenses are expired and need to be renewed so that the market has all the necessary authorizations relevant to its operation”.
On general misuse of installations, “the definition of trading locations in the market was done with safety and commercial considerations in mind, especially in what regards the need for speedy evacuation in the case of an emergency”, adding that “currently the occupation of the market is not in line with the originally defined plans and in case of an emergency, the evacuation routes are not cleared of obstructions”.
It also identified that “there are some columns of the steel structure that have their paintwork partially damaged and will be repaired by the contractor. The team for repainting the damaged steel column areas is being trained to start the activities in coordination with market management.
An ice machine installed in the market has also been identified as continuously presenting substantial leaks of both hydraulic oil and gas. However, “the equipment is still in operation, increasing the existing damage that will further compromise the equipment”.
The refuse area, it said, “is not undergoing proper maintenance and has many items for corrections due to its critical use. Rolling doors have been damaged and/or out of order and the environment needs constant preventive maintenance”.
The report also stated that “there are several protections for the movement of people and vehicles such as guard rails and curbs that have been damaged and have not been repaired and need to have corrective maintenance to avoid accidents”.
Additionally “all washing rooms need to undergo preventive maintenance to correct damages on the materials and equipment installed. All the washrooms have problems with faucets, toilets and plumbing. Preventive maintenance must also be carried out so that the system remains in constant and correct operation”.
Furthermore, it was identified that “several closings and/or handrails have been damaged and left unrepaired in several floors and internal areas of the market. These areas need constant corrective maintenance due to several shopkeepers occupying and storing products in areas not intended for the purpose and loss of control of trolleys on the ramps”.
Not all, “the activation panels of the roll-up doors of the main entrances have been damaged. The system is in operation but in need of but still in operation and need corrective maintenance” and “several low voltage power panels have damaged indicators and are in need of preventive maintenance.
It said that “the dedicated technical rooms are being used as a storage area, damaging the installed equipment”, and asked that “the technical rooms need to be kept clean and for the exclusive use of their systems and equipment installed. The access must be limited to maintenance staff only”.
At the Backup Generators Station, it was also discovered that the batteries for one generator were changed which damaged one synchronization panel. This disrupted the automatic changeover system and currently the generator must be turned on and off manually. Additionally, one of the synchronization panels has been removed from the system”.
“The keys to the main access door to the generator room were lost and temporary entry was made through the equipment protection fences”.
It advised that “corrective maintenance of the equipment is necessary so that it returns to its optimum operation”, adding “preventive maintenance must also be carried out so that the system remains in constant and optimum operation”.
It also “one solar battery charger is not working and in need of corrective maintenance” and although “the automatic voltage regulator (AVR) is working, the automated system is inoperative because the fuses are blown and need to be replaced”.
With respect to a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), it noted that “due to technical problems on the server, the CCTV system is not in operation and consequently all monitoring and security of market operations are not being monitored.
It observed that “all air curtains installed over the doors of the main accesses of the parking floor are turned off and or damaged. In the past the contractor intervened to restore this equipment, that was damaged by misuse, to working conditions”.
Carbon Monoxide detection “sensors on the vehicle traffic area have been damage”, it said, adding that “the proper functioning of this equipment is essential for the safety and protection of users in case of accumulation of large amounts of CO in this environment. These sensors control the forced ventilation system that prevent the accumulation of dangerous gases”.
The report had disclosed that the project of the Kumasi Central Market Phase 1 was handed over to the client in December 2018. Under Client’s request to perform the O&M of KMP1, in February 2018 Contracta created an operation, management and maintenance company, Kejetia Central Market O&M Limited (KCML/O&M), on 5th December 2018 signed an MoU with KMA.
“Consequently, a one-year pro-bonus O&M Contract was signed on 20th June 2019 (later on expanded by three additional months) between Kumasi City Market Lda (KCML), an SPV created by KMA for the Market management, and KCML/O&M).
“In June 2019, six months after the handover, the market began effective operation. Contracta engaged an experienced team in managing popular market operation & maintenance to assist KCML on the O&M of KMPI.
It said that “although this team had not been provided with the proper resources requested to KCML in order to establish a complete and proper operation of the market, a customized program was created that fully covered market management needs at all aspects, including HR and Administrative Management, Contracts Management, Receivals and Expenses Financial Management and daily Operation Management.
The minute staff that was made available by KCML, was trained and the rules of the market were implemented as an object of daily control and reinforcement. The contribution of Contracta in the O&M finished in September 2020.