ACCRA, Ghana – A five-story shopping center built earlier this year in a bustling suburb of Ghana's capital collapsed Wednesday, killing at least one person and leaving several dozen people trapped in the rubble, authorities and eyewitnesses said.
Rescue crews used cranes to try and remove debris from the top of the building amid fears that machinery sifting through the wreckage could injure trapped survivors. Crowds of bystanders gathered as rescuers sifted through cement and glass.
The fatality at the Melcom Shopping Center at Achimota, a suburb of Accra, was confirmed by Public Affairs Officer of the Ghana Fire Service Billy Anaglate.
"We are still working to find out the fate of others who may be trapped under," Anaglate said.
Other officials told The Associated Press that the death toll was likely to rise.
An AP reporter at the scene saw at least one man pulled from the debris, covered in dust and who was then whisked into an ambulance.
At least five people had been rescued while about 35 more are known to be trapped, said Freeman Tetteh, Greater Accra Regional Public Affairs Officer of the Ghana Police.
"I was on my way to the shop when l saw it crumpling down," Kojo Boadi, an eyewitness, said.
President John Mahama declared the scene a disaster zone and cut short his election campaign in the north of the country to be able to visit the site. The presidential election is scheduled for December.
The five-story store opened in February is part of the Melcom chain owned by Indian immigrant magnate, Bhagwan Khubchandani. His late father arrived in Ghana in 1929 as a 14-year-old to work as a store boy in the-then Gold Coast. The store sells a variety of cheap, imported household goods and appliances that are popular with working-class Ghanaians.