Doubts Over Khebab Theory

..As Cause of Last Saturday’s Atomic Gas Explosion

Huge question marks have come to dangle over the trending narrative that last Saturday night’s deadly explosions at the MANSCO gas station at Atomic Junction, a suburb of Accra, were set off by fire lit by a nearby khebab seller.

The claim, which was made by a Joy FM morning show anchor, Kojo Yankson, is failing to stand up to scrutiny, even as it is bogged down by serious disjointed logic and fraught with Mr. Yankson’s seeming inexpert knowledge in basic fire science.

A former chief executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) has also shared expert opinion that totally excludes the implied thought that the explosion necessarily needed naked fire to happen, while government has also carefully kept its distance from the khebab seller causation angle.

Late Sunday, the government had issued a statement, saying the cause of the explosion was not known and that it would be investigated.

The announcement, in a statement issued by the Information Ministry, had come several hours after Kojo Yankson had recorded a video putting the blame squarely on a supposed illiterate khebab seller.

In what is seen as rush, irresponsible journalism, Mr. Yankson may have just set up the khebab seller as fall guy for the criminal negligence of the operators of the filling station.

At least, seven people are confirmed dead, while 132 others suffered various degrees of injury.

Kojo Yankson’s chronology of events

According to Mr. Yankson, on the night of Saturday, the 7th of October, 2017, a glitch had occurred while workers of the MANSCO gas filling station at Atomic Junction, near Madina, were loading one of their tanks on the compound of the filling station.

The blip had led to gas rapidly escaping into the air, causing staff of the station to run away from the scene in an emergency evacuation. The event had caught the attention of pedestrians and passers-by, some of whom had begun recording it with their phones from atop an overpass nearby.

A few minutes after the chaos, when the gas in the atmosphere was still settling down, the khebab seller, who is said to have plied his trade near the filling station for years, had then lit up his skewer in preparation to roast some khebabs.

The flame bonded with the gas in the air immediately, setting the sky ablaze over the heads of passers-by and producing shockwaves that threw off a man filming from the overpass nearby, causing him to fall to his death.

After the initial explosion, the fire had then blazed a path to the main tank from which the gas was escaping. The resultant fireball vibrated throughout the whole vicinity and could be seen as far as Aburi in the Eastern Region.

Question marks

As a raw footage of the report rotates on social media, however, questions have emerged as to how fire set on the ground could be magnetized to gas in the air to cause the first explosion in the overhead without first burning the area around the khebab seller on the ground.

This is in line with the fact that basic fire science dictates that fire needs an incendiary surface area to ignite and burn, so that if the fire source is on the ground, then the burning ought to have started from the ground. In spite of the claim that the khebab seller started the fire, he is still alive, supposedly unscathed at all.

Mr. Yankson’s claim that a fire on the ground caused the first overhead explosion has therefore meant that the fire leapt over the non-incendiary space between the flames on the ground and the gas in the air to latch on to the gas to cause the first explosion.

Many people believe that this leapfrogging ability that Mr. Yankson’s narrative assigns fire is strange; especially so, when Mr. Yankson did not quote any expert on fire to back the new theory.

Interestingly, in the video footage that Mr. Kojo Yankson claims that the khebab stand had been the source of the fire, the stand, made up of a locally made skewer, is seen locked down with the skewer covered with pieces of what looked like aluminum and reinforced with stones atop. The clear indication is that the khebab seller had not been at work at the time of the fire.

Again, an eye witness, Kofi Selassie, who has been giving an account of the event to the media, has dismissed the claim in Mr. Yankson’s video that the explosions were only two, saying the explosions were actually three.

According to him, one of the explosions had occurred when an underground tank went off on its own at the station.

Revelations so far negate Mr. Yankson’s strange claims that fire from the khebab stand, some 10 meters away from the filling station, had caused the blast, supposedly leapfrogging to latch on to gas in the air to set off an initial explosion in the air before blazing a path to the main tanks.

Apparently, Mr. Yankson had rushed to the scene of the incident to do the video in attempt to beat competition in the media so that Joy FM would get credit for breaking the story on causation.

But the rush, inexpert report has since set up the khebab seller for trouble that may not be deserved. As at the time of going to press yesterday, the name of the Khebab seller was not yet known.

Expert opinion

Meanwhile, a former chief executive of the GNPC, Mr. Alex Mould, has observed that the explosion may have likely been set off by poor discharge protocols.

In a social media take, Mr. Mould, who is also a former CEO of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), explained that, specifically, the most probable cause is a leakage during coupling.

“Discharge Protocols should be strictly adhered to – seems that this was the cause of this accident and was the cause of the last 3 such explosions; These explosions are normally when a tanker is discharging and there is a leakage in the coupling (male-to-female connections on the offloading hoses).

“The seals in these couplings become brittle and as such fail to seal the liquid discharge and some gas escapes. Sometimes too the coupling just removes and large spillages occur.

“Normally these are rectified when there are attendants watching with the fire warden standing by ready with carbon dioxide and foam retardants. It is similar to the seals in your home cylinder where the regulator from your stove pipe goes into the cylinder.”

Cause is not yet known

Meanwhile, on Sunday, hours after Mr. Yankson’s video had gone viral, government had announced a decision to investigate the explosions, saying at the time that the immediate cause was not known.

In a release, Information Minister, Mustapha Hamid, had stated that; “An investigation has commenced into the cause of the explosion, and shall be followed with firm action to forestall future similar recurrences.”

It was the same statement that had put the death toll at seven and the number of injured at 132.

It has since also emerged that media reports claiming some students of the Presbyterian Boys Senior High School (PRESEC, Legon) had lost their lives to the explosions are false.

Lady Queene Asiedu-Akrofi, the headmistress of the school, has since said that not a single student was affected, even though the school is close to the filling station.




Source: Fiifi Samuels

The Republic News Online

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