David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Residents of Elugwu Isiaku Alayi in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State are still living in fear following an earth tremor, which occurred in the area in the night of September 17, 2019. The incident jolted and devastated the peaceful community.
Those who witnessed it, said it was just like Armageddon, a fight between the earth, economic trees, cash crops and anything standing on the way. History has it that such thing happened in the area about 150 years ago but of lesser magnitude.
The tremor covered several kilometres and acres of farmlands breaking the earth with deep holes, uprooting palm and other economic trees as well as cash crops, as it moved. It might not be an overstatement to say that it was earth on rampage and only experts can give it a better description. But surprisingly, it was gathered that government agencies were yet to be informed about the natural occurrence, more than two weeks after it happened.
The farmlands affected at Elugwu included Iyioba, Ekpehere, Uzoedo, Agboiyi, Ibeolu up to the back of Umuagwu where the tremor was only few meters away from residential homes and other parts. Two sources of water supply for the community, Iyielu and Urioduagu, were completely covered by earth.
Apart from breaking the lands to cause muddy and thick water eruption at uplands, thousands of palm and other economic trees were either felled or shifted to different positions to express the force with which the disaster came. Cash crops including cassava plantations were not spared and level lands in the affected areas were turned into mini hills.
Lamenting the incident, traditional ruler of the community, Eze Uche Elekwa, Eze Isiaku I, said the situation had gone beyond Bende Council Area because of the size of the destruction. He insisted only the state and federal governments could urgently come to the rescue of the affected communities whom he said were now living in fear as they could not say for sure what would be the next line of action of nature there.
Eze Isiaku called on government at all levels to without further delay send a team of experts to the affected areas to find out whether people living at the verge of where the tremor crossed and other areas should be evacuated to a safe place: “Apart from evacuating the residents, borehole water should be sited at strategic places within the community since its only source of water supply has been destroyed. And this has become necessary and urgent to avoid outbreak of epidemics as a result of no clean source of water supply.
“And apart from the palliative measures, government should look inwards and see what could be done for the farmers whose means of livelihood had been destroyed by the natural disaster. My people are predominantly farmers. And if nothing is done now, I wonder what will happen to them in terms of hunger and diseases.
“Since the disaster has disconnected Elugwu from its neighbourhoods, government should hurry up and construct the road that passes through Isiaku to other communities so that the locals can have easy access to other farmlands where the incident has not extended to, that is Alayi to Akoli Imenyi Road.”
An indigene of the area, Pastor Okorocha David Owoh, said the disaster took the community by surprise without premonition. Owoh, a retired Bende council official said that it was important for experts to ascertain whether the tremor would soon happen again so as to begin in time to look for an alternative residence for the community members.
“This has put us in confusion and if nothing is done, all of us may be sacked soon. Let Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and the Federal Government take urgent steps to come and find out what is happening to us without bureaucratic bottleneck and our people should be given some funds to start life afresh. Our land is rocky and we are surprised that this will befall us.”
On the damages suffered by the community, Chief Agwu Chukwu said that it was monumental but could not be exactly quantified until they took stock individually. Other villagers called on government to urgently come to their rescue especially on the issue of borehole “to save us from the hard condition we are passing through now.”
It was gathered that the president general of Amankalu Alayi Development Union, Elijah Amaonwu Kalu, after the incident brought some police men who visited scene with a promise that they would come back.