Ghana mall collapse kills three, 39 pulled out alive

A six-storey shopping mall collapsed in the Ghanaian capital Accra today, killing at least three people, but a desperate rescue operation had so far pulled out 39 survivors.

Police said 50 employees worked in the building, but all were not believed there before the collapse, which occurred ahead of opening time today morning. A total number of those inside at the time could not yet be determined.

President John Dramani Mahama suspended his campaign ahead of December 7 elections, offered prayers for those trapped and called the incident a "tragedy" as he visited the site.

Thousands thronged the scene, including family members in search of relatives.

"My son, my son, my son! My son is going to die! Get him for me! He is my only son!" one woman could be heard screaming.

Assistant Police Superintendent Freeman Tettey told journalists that three people had been confirmed dead as workers rushed to find those buried with the west African heat bearing down.

Another police official said later in the day that 39 people had so far been pulled out from the rubble alive and taken to hospital for treatment.

"Thirty-nine people have so far been rescued and sent to the various hospitals in Accra based on the degree of the injury," Accra police commander Patrick Timbillah told journalists at the scene.

Family members could be seen at the site attempting to call relatives who may be trapped, while scores of rescue workers at the scene sought to clear debris and get oxygen masks to victims.

The cause of the collapse of the Melcom shopping mall in the centre of the capital was not immediately clear. Workers from a nearby construction site were urgently called over to help dig through the rubble.

"They said, 'please bring equipment'," said one of the construction workers, Camille Moukarzel.

Stephen Ansah, a Melcom employee from another branch, said he had spoken with someone buried who had said he needed water.

"They are suffering," he said. "The heat is too much."

President Mahama ordered a probe of the incident, which he called "a tragedy for Ghana."

"I decided to call off my campaign to come and have first-hand information about the incident...

"A committee will be set up to investigate the cause of the accident, and whoever is found culpable will be dealt with.

"I have had calls from governments who are willing to assist us with a rescue mission and I have accepted their offer. They will come in when it is necessary."

Police rushed to the scene after the collapse and sought to confirm details while soldiers worked to help maintain order.

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