IDF troops collaborating with local crews (Photo: IDF)
An IDF search and rescue crew continued to look for survivors a day after a four-storey shopping mall collapsed in the West African state's capital Accra, killing at least nine.
Officials said more people than initially thought were still trapped in the wreckage of the department store, which collapsed due to suspected structural failure, but they declined to provide an estimate.
"The first 48 hours are very critical and it is my hope that we'd be able to reach anybody trapped down there as soon as possible," Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama said at a news conference near the collapsed building.
Accra is in the midst of a construction boom spurred by oil-fuelled economic growth, but building standards region-wide are generally poor and enforcement is often lax.
The 18-member Israeli military crew arrived in Accra on Thursday, and was using trained sniffer dogs, concrete cutters and other equipment to locate any remaining survivors.
"We're using sound waves in order to look for people who are trapped inside," said Uri Katzav, who is heading the SAR mission. "We have equipment that is able to locate movements within a building."
"Our delegation is small but our role is to connect between the local resources and the knowledge we have accumulated as the Home Front Command's search and rescue unit," Colonel Ramtin Sefati, the unit's commander, added. "We’re trying to locate survivors and reach them as fast as possible."
Ghana authorities initially had estimated that around 55 people were inside the building when it collapsed on Wednesday morning, but that figure was based on the number of employees and did not factor in the number of shoppers too.
By Thursday afternoon, emergency personnel had pulled out 69 survivors and recovered nine bodies from the building, which housed a mall operated by Indian retailer Melcom Ltd.
"It is now clear that more people were in the shop than initially estimated, and it is difficult to tell the actual numbers at this moment," Kofi Portuphy, the head of Ghana's National Disaster Management Organization, told Reuters.