Rescue efforts end at collapsed Ghana mall

Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:12am EST

* Fourteen killed, dozens injured

* Police arrest three in connection with the tragedy

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Rescuers have ended their search for survivors of a shopping mall collapse in Ghana's capital Accra last week which killed at least 14 people, officials said on Monday.

The four-storey building, operated by Indian retailer Melcom Ltd in Accra's Achimota neighbourhood, collapsed on Wednesday due to a suspected structural failure as employees gathered for morning prayers before opening for business.

Kofi Portuphy, head of the National Disaster Management Organisation, said emergency personnel, who used excavators, heavy duty cranes and shovels to remove debris, reached the structure's ground floor late on Sunday.

"I can say that we have concluded our rescue and recovery efforts based on our conviction that there will be no more persons, dead or alive, in the wreckage," Portuphy told Reuters.

Melcom initially believed that around 50 people had been inside the building when it collapsed, but it soon became clear that dozens more were trapped under the rubble.

Rescuers pulled 71 survivors from beneath the twisted metal and broken concrete, though four later died in hospital bringing the total confirmed dead to 14. Dozens of others were injured.

Melcom said on Monday that one of its employees at the branch remained unaccounted for.

An inquiry has been launched into how the mall's builders were able to circumvent building codes after it was discovered its construction had not been approved by city authorities.

State investigators have arrested two officials in charge of authorising construction projects in the city. Police have also detained the mall owner, Nana Boadu Nkansah, a local chief.

He apologised to the victims of the collapse on Friday but maintained that he had acquired the proper permits for the structure.

Melcom, which runs Ghana's biggest chain of retail department stores with some 20 outlets nationwide, said it was only renting the building and had opened its store there in January. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; editing by Joe Bavier and Keiron Henderson)