Up to 20 students have died after a storm at a waterfall popular with picnickers in Ghana caused trees to fall on them while they were swimming.
Wind and heavy rain appears to have caused the accident, in which large falling trees trapped daytrippers in a pool at the bottom of the Kintampo waterfalls, one of the highest in the country, in the Brong-Ahafo region.
Surrounded by mahogany trees and sunbirds, the three-stage waterfall is about 70 metres high, and its pool is often found full of people cooling off in the spray.
At least 12 of the dead were pupils of Wenchi secondary school, about an hour’s drive from the falls. The headteacher, Foster Boateng, told local media they had been on a trip to the northern regions of the country on Sunday.
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“We decided to finish it all at the Kintampo waterfalls, so some of the children decided to taste the swimming aspect of it,” a Ghanaian news website quoted him as saying.
“The trees started coming down, so in an attempt to escape some of them fell and they were trapped by the trees. Those who succeeded in climbing the staircase up to pack into the bus got trapped … by other trees that had fallen down.”
The national fire service spokesman, Prince Billy Anaglate, said 18 people were killed at the scene and a further two died in hospital. Eleven people were being treated for their injuries, including one of the school administrators in charge of the trip.
As well as the 12 school pupils, two university students and four other visitors to the falls were among the dead.
A witness told Ghana’s Starr News radio: “A huge tree fell at the top when the rains began and crushed the revellers … We are trying to save those who are trapped by cutting the trees with chainsaws.”
The bodies of the dead and the injured were brought home to Wenchi, about an hour’s drive from the falls, which are on Pumpum river, a tributary of the Black Volta.
Nana Kwadjo Bekoe, a blogger from Wenchi who had been at the school, said the atmosphere there was “very mournful” and students and teachers were deeply upset.
“Parents were at the hospital to identify their loved ones who passed away in the accident. The rest of the students who sustained various degrees of injuries were admitted to a different hospital,” he said.