Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The survivors of a collapsed three-storey building located at No 22, Nkisi Aroli Street, Onitsha, Anambra State, are counting their losses. They are also thanking God for saving their lives in the early morning disaster that occurred on September 12.
The six-flat house, which stood close to the site of a gully, collapsed during a seven-hour downpour, with no one sustaining any injury.
It was gathered that a six-year-old boy living on the second floor of the building had noticed, about 6.30am, that the rain was falling and that the mango tree at the back of the building was no more there.
The boy reportedly drew the attention of his mother who looked through the window and saw that other trees close to the house had fallen down. The mother then raised the alarm, and the occupants of the building quickly ran out. Soon after, the building completely collapsed.
Also, another building, an eight-room bungalow near the collapsed building, was on the verge of collapsing as part of the building had already caved in.
An occupant of the three-storey building, Mr. Chima Ikemefuna who narrated to Daily Sun how the incident occurred, said that God used the young boy to save the occupants of the house. He said though their lives were saved, he lost everything he had, notably his personal belongings, including his university certificates.
His words: “The incident happened around 6.30am as the rain was falling. It was the family that was living on the second floor that raised the alarm when they noticed what was about to happen. I was preparing for work when the mother of the young boy who noticed it ran down and was screaming and shouting. We alerted the policeman and family living on the ground floor. Everybody quickly ran out of the building before it collapsed.
“As God would have it, none of us sustained any injury. But we lost all our property. We came out just with the clothes we were putting on; I lost all my school certificates. The house collapsed within a minute after we ran out of the building. We thank God for saving our lives.”
He also spoke on why the occupants chose to live close to the gully erosion site. Ikemefuna said: “We saw it, I won’t lie. The drainage at the back of the building was not that bad, but when the fence fell down initially, we alerted the landlord of the house but he did nothing about it until the building collapsed.
“My appeal to the federal and state authorities is for them to come to our aid because we are now living with nothing. All the tenants living in this collapsed building are homeless with their families. None of our property was removed. Everything we had was buried inside the building. Another thing is that the building close to our own is affected and if there is rain, that house will collapse as well,” Ikemefuna narrated.
Another survivor, Mrs Henrietta Onoja, who lived on the ground floor, said she was woken up with shouts and she immediately evacuated her children out of the building before it collapsed.
“We were the first tenant in the building and the environment was not bad when we moved into the house over six years ago. How can I see that this place is not good and I would move in here with my family? It was of recent that we started observing some cracks on the fence, and we told the owner of the house.
“We thank God because we were the last family that came out of the building before it came down. The neighbours came to our door and were shouting for us to come out of the building that it was about to collapse and we quickly rushed out of the building. We give God the glory for saving our lives though nothing was brought out of the house. We lost all our property and valuables. We are begging government to help us because the house rent in Onitsha is too costly,” Mrs Onoja stated.
A tenant in the bungalow near the collapsed storey building, Chizoba Omega said that her fellow occupants woke up to see that the building close to their house had collapsed and affected their house.
She said that the occupants of their house had been directed by a government agency and security agents to vacate their house before its collapses. He said they had removed all the property in the building but had nowhere to go; hence their belongings were on the street.
“This building is the only property my mother inherited from my late dad. We don’t have any place to go. Government said that we should vacate the house, and we have removed our property and packed them somewhere over there. My aged mother was taken away to somebody’s house. We are calling on government to come to our aid. To rent a house is not easy, even if you have the money. And there is no money to rent a house now. If rain falls again, it will destroy our property.
“When we noticed that the gully was encroaching on the house, we told the owner of the collapsed building, and he said he would do something about it. But he did nothing until it finally collapsed and put our own building in danger. We don’t have a place to lay our heads. We are stranded,” Omega lamented.
Another tenant in the bungalow, Mr Thomas Odufele said that he and the family members had vacated the house as directed by security agents to avoid death or injuries when it eventually collapsed. He called for help from good-spirited individuals, corporate bodies, non-governmental organisations and government agencies.
He said he was already living in the bungalow before the collapsed building was completed, saying that the erection of the building took some time.
“We have packed our property out of our own house that was affected. We are looking for a place to live. Our property is scattered; our children are scattered looking for a place to sleep pending when we find another house, which is not easy. There is a drainage system built by then governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo that passed at the back of our house. That has been destroyed by gully erosion, and that led to the encroachment on this area. That was the cause of the problem,” Odufele said.
Chairman of Onitsha North Local Government area, Mr. Patrick Agha-Mba, who visited the site of the collapsed building, expressed worry that landlords were still building houses along drainage systems and close to gully erosion sites. He blamed the tenants who patronise such landlords to rent the buildings.
He said the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) had visited the place to evaluate the damage with a view to assisting the victims. He called on the tenants living in the two other buildings close to the collapsed building to immediately vacate before the buildings would collapse.
A team from Anambra State Material Testing Laboratory visited the scene of the collapsed building to ascertain the cause of the collapse.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr John B. Abang, also visited the site of the collapsed three-storey building and attributed the disaster to the downpour.
He said that no casualty was recorded and the value of property damaged was yet to be ascertained. He ordered the police to clear the debris and cordon off the place to prevent looters from taking advantage.
The heavy rains also pulled down the rear fence of the Onitsha Prisons, and the police boss also ordered the immediate deployment of police personnel to secure the area. He said that no casualty was recorded and no inmate escaped from the prison due to the collapsed fence.