In less than 24 hours after arriving from an official visit to the United States of America, President Akufo-Addo visited Mepe, in the North Tongu constituency, which has been the hardest hit of all the communities affected by the flooding.
A total of 26,000 people, per the estimates of National Disaster Mangment Organisation (NADMO), have been affected by the spillage in the Central Tongu, South Tongu, Ada West, Keta, Anlo, Shai Osudoku and Asuogyaman districts.
Mepe, alone, according to the Deputy Director General OF NADMO, Seji Saji, has over 6,000 residents displaced, leading NADMO to establish nine safe havens for residents where they are receiving relief items.
President Akufo-Addo in commiserating with the Mankralo of Mepe, Togbe Korsi Nego VI, and the people of Mepe, noted that, in dealing with the tragedy, his first preoccupation was to help protect lives of residents.
9 safe havens centers
He explained that it is for this reason, that nine safe havens centers have been established in Mepe, with NADMO ensuring that all affected persons received relief items.
“It is NADMO’s intention to continue to provide relief items,” he assured.
With the majority of residents of Mepe engaged in farming, President Akufo-Addo indicated that “we will work with the Finance Minister to workout what kind of support can be given to residents to enable them resume their occupations, once the flood waters recede.”
He added that “Government is going to do everything in its power to assist residents and those affected by the flooding so as to bring a sense of normalcy to them.”
Caution against politicization
Cautioning against the politicization of this tragedy, President Akufo-Addo urged residents to shame persons who seek to make political capital out of this tragedy, and who seek to divide them along party lines.
He noted that he took the oath of office as President of the Republic “for every single individual in Ghana, for all peoples, and for all districts. Whether they voted for me or not I am the president, and I am responsible for everyone.”
The President told the Chiefs and people of Mepe that his visit to them and the assistance offered to them, thus far, is because they are Ghanaians who find themselves in some degree of difficulty as a result of a disaster.
“It is my responsibility to try and help, because if it is a question of who voted for me or not, then I shouldn’t be here because you (residents of Mepe) don’t vote for me or my party. But political affiliations are not my concern. My concern is the welfare and well-being of all Ghanaian people, irrespective of tribe, religion, ethnicity or religious affiliations,” he added
President Akufo-Addo used the opportunity, also, to applaud the Volta River Authority (VRA) for the series of sensitization exercises it undertook since May this year, which has meant that not a single individual has lost his or his life.
He assured the Chiefs and people of Mepe that he will be back again to see for himself the progress that has been made in bringing lasting relief to them.
Mankralo of Mepe grateful to President
On his part, the Mankralo of Mepe thanked the President for coming to see for himself the devastation caused by the spillage of the dam, and for directing the appropriate state agencies to help bring relief to them.
President Akufo-Addo, before leaving visited the sick bay, which is treating persons who have been taken ill as a result of the disaster, and also visited the banks of the river, seeing for himself the extent of damage caused by the flood waters.
Government, through the Ministry of Roads and Highways, has earmarked GH¢5 million to fix all road networks in areas affected by the spillage of the Akosombo Dam.
The amount includes maintenance work to be carried out on the Lower Volta Bridge, also known as the Sogakope Bridge, to fix any damage that may have occurred because of the spillage.
Mr Kwasi Amoako-Atta, Minister of Roads and Highways, disclosed this when he paid a working visit to the area to obtain firsthand information on the impact of the spillage on road networks in the area and assess the condition of the Sogakope Bridge.
He said the government was greatly concerned about the impact of the spillage on road networks in the area especially the Sogakope Bridge.
High-level government delegation
In a related development, a high-level government delegation, led by Minister of State at the Local Government Ministry, Osei Bonsu Amoah, and comprised of officials from various ministries and agencies, visited Mepe and other flood-affected areas yesterday to assess the situation and provide relief to victims.
The flood, caused by the controlled spillage of the Akosombo and Kpong dams, has led to significant challenges in the affected areas, including power cuts, infrastructure damage, and risks to residents’ lives.
Safety of residents is govt’s concern
Speaking to journalists after a four-hour tour of the flood areas, Deputy Minister for Information, Fatimatu Abubakar said government is deeply concerned about the safety of residents of the affected areas and as a matter of urgency has taken appropriate steps to safeguard their lives.
“We are deeply concerned about the plight of our fellow citizens who have been adversely affected by the flooding due to the dam spillage. Our primary goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of these communities, and accordingly we have taken appropriate steps with regard to that,” she said.
Why spillage was necessary
The spillage is a standard operation for any hydro dam to prevent the water from overtopping and compromising the integrity of the dams.
Water was spilled in 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1991 and 2010.
VRA stores a lot of water during the inflow systems. That is why spilling is also not even a recurring thing that it does.
The maximum level of water in the Akosombo Dam should be 276 feet.
But, as of Thursday October 12, the water level in the dam was 276.92 feet or 84.405 metres.
It is normal at this time of the year to experience inflows but the dam this year was getting more than expected and to safeguard it.
It goes to a point where it will be above the capacity of the dam so it is impossible to store any more water
The volumes of water that was coming into the lake right now imposes on the Authority the obligation to save the dam from collapse and at the same time evacuate people and ensure they were safe.
The spillage began at a low rate for about one and a half weeks with no impact on downstream communities.
However, the inflow into the reservoir continues to increase at a higher rate, and therefore there was the need to increase the spill rate in order to slow down the rate at which the reservoir elevation was rising.
This has resulted in the flooding of some communities downstream of the Dams as roads are cut off leaving commuters stranded, with others resorting to the use of boats and canoes which further endanger their lives.
A Deputy Chief Executive of VRA for Services, Kenneth Arthur, said the authority decided to provide the essential relief items in keeping with the VRA’s commitment to alleviate the plight of the communities.
Mr. Arthur said the items were to mitigate the difficulties and challenges being faced by the communities that had been adversely impacted as a result of the intensified spill rate.
The Deputy Director of NADMO, Seji Saji provided update on rescue efforts thus far. He said NADMO has already deployed personnel to the affected areas to provide food, water, and shelter to those who need it adding that it is working with the VRA to ensure that the spillage is managed safely and that the impact on communities is minimized.
10,000 affected persons moved to safe havens
He said more than 10,000 affected persons had been moved to safe havens in South, North and Central Tongu districts.
Mr Sedji Sadji, Deputy NADMO Director-General, urged people in areas yet to be affected to move as a matter of urgency as the spillage was ongoing.
Dr Archibald Letsa, the Volta Regional Minister, called on residents in affected communities to cooperate with officials to ensure that the comprehensive relief efforts were not in vain.
The residents should also embrace education on safety protocols.
Also present during the tour were the Deputy Minister for Energy, Andrew Egyapa Mercer, Deputy Minister for Health, Tina Mensah, Volta Regional Minister, Dr. Archibald Letsa, District Chief Executive Officer, Osborn Divine Fenu and other high profile dignitaries and security personnel.