JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Dozens of people were trapped and at least three people died when a multi-story shopping mall in the capital of Ghana collapsed shortly before opening Wednesday, according to Ghanaian authorities.
About 23 people had been rescued, according to news reports. It was unclear how many more remained in the rubble.
[Updated at 11:25 a.m., Nov. 7: Around 40 people had been rescued from the building by late Wednesday, according to news reports.
President John Dramani Mahama suspended campaigning for upcoming elections, visited the scene of the collapse and later spoke to survivors in hospital.]
"My prayers are with the workers, shoppers and others who are trapped in the rubble of the collapsed Achimota Melcom building," he said earlier in a tweet.
The shopping complex in Accra -- rented by Melcom Superstores, Ghana's biggest retail supermarket chain -- was opened earlier this year.
Ghana, a small cocoa and gold exporting nation in West Africa, is known best for its democratic successes in recent years in a region more often known for coups and stolen elections. The country is preparing for elections next month.
Local media cited authorities saying that dozens of people, mainly staff preparing to open the store, were trapped inside the building when it collapsed. There were conflicting reports on the number of stories in the building, with reports it had between four and six floors.
"We are doing our best to get to those trapped. We hear there are about three dozen," police officer Kwame Avevoi told Reuters news service.
A witness, Ama Okyere, was close to the building when it collapsed, Agence France-Presse reported.
"I had to run for my life," Okyere said. "I was so terrified. I believe there are lots of people trapped under this because this is a heavily patronized shopping mall in the area."
Another witness, John Owusu, told the news agency that he heard a large bang before the building collapsed.
Photo: An excavator clears the rubble at the scene of a shopping center that collapsed on Wednesday. Credit: David Adadevoh / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images.