The Kintampo Waterfall disaster which claimed lives on Sunday, March 19, 2017 has been described as an “act of God,” a report presented to parliament has revealed.
Twenty people, mostly students on excursion, lost their lives while over 21 others sustained injuries after trees crashed on them following a heavy rainstorm.
Most of the victims were students of the Wenchi Senior High School (SHS) in the Brong-Ahafo Region while others were tourists.
The tourist site was closed down following the incident while a committee was set up by the government to probe the cause of the tragedy.
Presenting the report to Parliament yesterday, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Catherine Afeku, said despite the conclusion that the disaster was an act of God, other factors also contributed to the unfortunate event.
“The report concluded that although this was an act of God, a number of remote and immediate causes were identified as being instrumental to the accident,” she averred.
Ms Afeku also denied that the Kintampo Waterfall was seized by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) vigilante group – Invisible Forces.
The chief of Kyeremankoma had alleged that tour guides at the waterfall were sacked by some supporters of the NPP a few months after the party had come into office.
But the Minister said that the Municipal Assembly was firmly in control of the facility contrary to reports that the vigilante group had taken over the site without the requisite expertise, to manage it.
The Minister made this known in response to questions on the floor of Parliament.
“Mr. Speaker, on the sad day that the tragedy occurred as I alluded to this august house a day after my team, the Vice President of the Republic of this nation and other stakeholders visited the site, we did not see any illegal occupation,” the minister said.
Ms Afeku announced that the Kintampo Waterfall would be opened to the public in September this year.
She said apart from the Kintampo Waterfall, similar safety audits were being carried out by the ministry at Fuller Waterfall, near Kintampo in the Brong-Ahafo Region; Kakum National Park in the Central Region; Wli Waterfall in the Volta Region; Boti Waterfall in the Eastern Region; Bonsu Aboremtrem in the Eastern Region and Nzulezu in the Western Region.
Ms Afeku indicated that the various safety audits being carried out at some of the major tourist sites in the country became necessary as a result of the Kintampo disaster and that the team, which is conducting those safety audits comprises military engineers from the 48 Engineers Regiment, some officials from the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), a safety management consultant, a health management consultant, an environmental management consultant, some officials from the Forestry Commission, as well as the Ghana Tourism Authority and a tourism sector Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Tourism Safety and Security Initiative.
The minister, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Evalue Ajomoro Gwira, had been invited to respond to an urgent question filed by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.
The North Tongu MP wanted to know the steps the ministry was taking to guarantee the safety of tourists at Ghana’s tourist sites following the Kintampo Waterfall tragedy.
According to the tourism minister, a review of the management structures was also recommended by the audit team, as well as introduction of clearly defined public safety management measures and emergency preparedness and coordination.
“The team said immediate afforestation exercise must be carried out to improve the diversity of flora while loose rocks and those in potentially precarious positions at the various stages of the Falls must be removed,” she maintained.
She explained that proposals had been made to build a museum, a replica of Kwame Nkrumah’s lodge, camp site, canopy walkway, hotels and cafeteria to make Kintampo Waterfall a top-class tourist site since it is a very important attraction in the country.
“Mr Speaker, the Ghana Tourism Authority has been coordinating activities with the 48 Engineers Regiment, Forestry Commission, the traditional authorities and local assemblies,” she pointed out, adding that a team, led by personnel of the 48 Engineers, would move to the site on Thursday, June 8, while the afforestation exercise would also commence soon.
Ms Afeku mentioned that the training for tour guides and capacity building for workers at all tourist sites was taking place while a new Legislative Instrument to bring all tour attractions under the Ghana Tourism Authority Licensing and Registration Regime was being worked out and that it would soon be sent to Parliament.
“Public liability Insurance for all tour sites is also being pushed as a mandatory requirement for all attractions,” she declared.