President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has tasked the Engineering Council of the Ministry of Works and Housing to conduct a comprehensive integrity audit of all public buildings and structures to enable the government to plan effectively for earthquakes and other natural disasters.
He has also urged the Ghana Geological Survey Authority (GGSA) to give the government the needed advice on the logistical needs and equipment required by the body to undertake round-the-clock monitoring of seismic activities for urgent action.
The President made the call in Accra on Thursday when he opened a day’s stakeholder conference on Ghana’s earthquake preparedness and response. The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Interior.
The conference, held under the theme: “Building Resilience to Earthquakes- A National Priority,” is to deliberate on the Report of a ten-member Committee set up in 2019 by the Interior Ministry to draw up a framework for refocusing Ghana’s earthquake preparedness and response.
President Akufo-Addo noted that with Ghana’s history of seismic activities dating back to 1636, with a destructive one hitting Accra in 1939 and with recent tremors in the country, there was the need to ensure losses are reduced in the event of a high magnitude earthquake.
“Knowing what to do in the event of an earthquake is crucial to survival. It is as important that all Ghanaians know what to do to remain safe and alive should such an unfortunate event occur in the future.
“We need to ensure that buildings including dwellings, dams and bridges are structurally competent and resilient to earthquakes of a higher magnitude. Constructing well-engineered structures including dams and roads and retrofitting important public lifeline buildings such as hospitals, schools, churches and mosques cannot be compromised,” he stressed.
The President assured that the government was committed to ensuring that the entire citizenry is protected from the effects of earthquakes and other disasters that might ravage any part of the nation.
“The government has sufficiently demonstrated its determination to make the nation resilient to the effects of disasters and we will continue to equip NADMO (National Disaster Management Organisation) and indeed all response agencies to enhance their operational effectiveness.”
President Akufo-Addo encouraged the NADMO to embark on a sustained national education campaign on the country’s earthquake preparedness and contingency plans and further requested regular updates from the Management of NADMO on progress made.
He also urged the ministers of Works and Housing and Local Government and Decentralization and Rural Development to collaborate with the Ghana Institution of Engineers to develop a scheme that would entail homeowners retrofit their homes to make them resistant to earthquakes and compel prospective homeowners to build under defined standards.
The President further reiterated his instruction to the leadership of NADMO to liaise with the Ghana education service to help incorporate learning themes on protection against earthquakes and other disasters in the curricula at the pre-tertiary education level.
The report of the ten-member Committee proposes measures to enable Ghana to develop the capacity to cope with and recover from the effect of a major earthquake, with the consideration that those measures do not compromise the ability of the country to develop and do not place an undue financial burden on individuals and the state.
It identifies and outlines the key measures that must be undertaken by relevant agencies to prepare communities for seismic risk. It also evaluates the capacities of relevant bodies mandated with the national response to identifying resource gaps and outlines other response measures required by stakeholders in the event of an earthquake.
The report stresses the need for existing structures that are vulnerable to natural disasters to be retrofitted to ensure that they are not unduly damaged and urges the update of the Ghana Building Code to include requirements for retrofitting infrastructure.
It prescribes that owners of public buildings and buildings meant for large numbers of occupants, as well as managers of lifeline structures such as energy, water, ports, bridges/interchanges, telecommunications infrastructure among others, should be required to carry out a detailed assessment of their facilities, together with retrofitting to required standards within a specified period.
Ghana’s exposure to earthquake hazards is significant with important assets and a large population in areas that have been affected by earthquakes in the past. Cities like Accra, Tema, Ho, Cape Coast, Takoradi, as well as important installations in the south of the country such as those for communications, water, oil, gas, electricity and some iconic national infrastructure, all lay within areas exposed to earthquake hazard.
Ghana experienced a major earthquake in 1939 in Accra. The country has since then experienced four minor seismic activities. Earthquakes hazard in Ghana is generally determined by three main sources, the coastal boundary fault which lies parallel to its Coast, the Akuapim fault zone that is made up of a series of faults along with the Akuapim mountain range, and the Ivory Coast fault, which occurs in the South West corner of the country.
Past earthquakes in Ghana and the examination of current conditions by the Ghana Geological Survey Authority have shown that the full range of secondary effects like fires, flooding from broken pipes and dams, tsunamis, landslides/rockfalls and liquefaction are all possible from strong ground shaking in the country.
Stakeholders at the conference include the National Disaster Management Organisation, the National Security, the Ghana Geological Survey Authority, the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority, the Ghana Health Service, the Ghana Ambulance Service, the Ghana National Fire Service, the Ghana Police Service, and the Ghana Armed Forces.
Rex Mainoo Yeboah, ISD