Steve Oko, Umuahia
Victims of the recent landslide at Umuchime village, Amuzukwu Ibeku community in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State have told Governor Okezie Ikpeazu that it was not enough to direct them to relocate from their houses without providing them with “an alternative.”
Five houses collapsed and many others are at great risk after the landslide hit the community. Amuzukwu is one of the landlords of the community prone to gully erosion.
The incident was very devastating although no life was lost; victims of the natural phenomenon are still recounting their ordeals and counting their losses. Government directed people living around the scene of the incident to relocate to safer areas.
When our correspondent visited the hilly community, some of the victims were still in shock . The village head, Chinaturum Ndukwe, said his son’s house valued at N200 millinion was affected and “still stands the risk of imminent collapse.”
The son, an Aba-based medical practitioner had just finished building the house before the tragedy occurred. He said victims of the landslide needed urgent rehabilitation and aid from government.
While the septuagenarian commended government for visiting the community, he said what the victims needed most at this trying moment was intervention. He said the governor sent Commissioners for Works, and Environment for on-the-spot assessment, but respite “is yet to come” the way of the victims.
The village head said the threat posed by erosion in the community has gone beyond the capacity of individuals. He appealed to government to quickly come to their aid, adding that the community is their ancestral land and they have nowhere to go:
“If they are asking us to relocate, government should tell us where to go because this is our ancestral home. We have spent so much to control erosion here and now we don’t even have the resources again.”
Corroborating his account, the security guard at the son’s house, who gave his name as Emeka Okorie, said human casualties would have been recorded in the latest incident if it had occurred at night:
“It was around 2:00 pm and I heard a woman crying for help in the neighbouring compound. When I rushed in to assist; I saw her carrying a baby and coming out of the house, and as I wanted to go in, I saw the building falling, so I ran back.
“We were all there and in a matter of seconds, the back wall of the building sank in. The woman had told me that one of the tenants in the neighbourhood who visited her told her to relocate because of big cracks in the house.
“She said as soon as the tenant left, she went in to collect something from the room when the wall began to fall and she managed to escape with her baby. Imagine what would have happened if this had happened at night!”
One of the villagers told our correspondent that “smoke occasionally comes out from the foot of the hill.” One of the youth leaders in the community, Emmanuel Paul, blamed menace of erosion in the area on lack of proper drainage:
“The incident is now more pronounced with more houses sprouting in the area unlike in the years past when there were only few houses in the suburb. He also appealed to government to help build the road which has been in a deplorable state following heavy traffic flow to a paint manufacturing company in the area.
The youth leader said top government officials had visited the area and assured them that they would furnish the governor with the cost of what should be done.
He appealed to government to expedite action on the intervention plans to mitigate the ordeals of the victims.
Another victim, a civil servant, would not want her name in print. She said government should go beyond sympathy and empathise with them: “Asking us to relocate is not enough. The point is where are we relocating to? “For instance, I am a civil servant, and it took me years of savings to build my house. I would have left long ago but where do I get the money?
“Two-bedroom flat is N250,000 per annum in Umuahia. As a civil servant how do I raise the money? Many other victims involved don›t also have the resources to move. We are still squatting here despite the risk. We thought respite would come from government but we are still expecting.”
Residents of Elugwu Isiaku Alayi in Bende Local Government are still living in fear following an earth tremor in the area in the night of September 17, 2019.
Similarly, several areas in Abia North Senatorial District; especially in Isukwuato, Bende and Arochukwu local government areas have been under severe environmental threats.