Joe Effiong, Uyo
Was it a landslide, earth tremor or the dreaded earthquake?
Whatever it was, it has succeeded in putting the people of Ibam Edet, Odoro Ikpe, Ibiono Ewuro and some adjoining villages in Ini Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State in perpetual fear of the unknown.
The people do not know whether they would wake up the next day alive or be buried alive by threatening mysterious land movement, which has already submerged some sections of the community.
Even though no life has so far been lost, but property worth millions of naira, and other invaluable assets such as streams that provide the community with drinking water, have been destroyed.
When Sunday Sun visited Ibam Edet, which has recorded the worst devastation, villagers living on the side of the community ravaged by the massive landslide, were evacuating their property to relocate to some safe areas.
It was learned that before the tremor eventually struck in penultimate Friday, it had given only a two-day signal when some buildings began to develop inexplicable cracks on the wall. And while they rushed to mend the cracks, more and wider ones developed before the houses suddenly caved in, going down more than12 metres below the earth surface.
An 18-bedroom apartment belonging to Mrs Eno Dennis Ekpenyong, a widow and mother of five, was the worst hit as a section of the house got detached and sunk.
Ironically, the sinking section of the house just balanced squarely below with all the blocks sitting on the right places on the foundation as if it was built from there.
While a total of eight houses have been identified to have either completely collapsed or in serious cracks, the villages affected were named as Nna Enin, Ibiono Ewura, Ikot Ossom, Odoro Ikpe, Ibam Edet, Akpayak and Usung Ita, all surrounding the big ravine and members of the communities complaining of constant vibrations.
Etido Ekpenyong, whose mother’s house collapsed at Ibam Edet, said: “We first noticed a crack on our building on Wednesday last week, we thought it was a technical error from the foundation, then on Friday morning, the entire building caved into the ravine.
“My mum is in a terrible shock right now, we lost our father many years ago, and she struggled to put up this building about six years ago. The collapse did not even give us any time to rescue any household property. So, we are just helpless and empty. The government should please help us”.
While putting the cost of the property, which also has a borehole for commercial purpose and some stores rented out to tenants at N10 million.
Another victim, a primary school teacher, Mr Matthew Udo Ekong of Odoro Ikpe, who part of his house also collapsed on that Friday said there was no reason to link the collapse with the ravine as the ravine had not threatened the community before else people would not be building around it.
Ekong said that knowing the topography of the area, he had laid adequate foundation for the house, adding that if the ravine was responsible, it would have been showing some signs in the past. He appealed for assistance to enable him relocate his family.
Chief Anthony Inyang Akpan, the village head of Ibam Edet, said that the people have lived around the ravine for over 50 years now without any threat or collapse of building.
The village refuted the claim that the tremor might have been a consequence of human activities like sad excavation, saying there was no such large scale sand business in the area, even though some women and youth manually excavate gravel for sale.
The Chairman, Ini Local Government Area, Mr Israel Idaisin on his part, appealed to the state government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to come to the rescue of the victims by assisting with relief items and other support to enable him to relocate the victims and other residents whose houses are being threatened to safe areas.
While acknowledging the ongoing effort by the state government to construct roads in the area, Idaisin noted that there are still very many economically viable roads that were begging for construction in the area, especially as erosion is threatening existing roads.
“We are going to the place tomorrow with the house of assembly member so that the house member will be able to present it on the floor of the house and we can jointly send our SOS to the deputy governor who is in charge of emergency package so that reliefs can come to the people.
“There has been no history of such occurrence in the area,” the council boss stressed.
But a geomorphologist in the University of Uyo, Prof Imo Ukpong, said that even though there might not have been such an occurrence in recent history, it might have occurred many years before the present generation of villagers were born and since there was no record, they would assume that it had never occurred before.
While he said the incident might not have been earthquake as assumed by the locals, Ukpong said due to the undulating nature of the area and the recent heavy rains, there might have been earth movements underneath resulting in the collapse of the surface.
“Earthquakes do not just occur because there is a crack; there are several things on the earth surface. If it is in the area that is undulating or sloppy, the continuous rain will soak the stratum and lubricate it sufficiently so that depending on the nature of the stratum, whether it is clay, silt or sand, that can absorb water, then the gradient and the gravity will make it to move in an attempt to slide. We call that earth movement.
“Landslide or earth movement is always in a linear form, cutting across the slope. It is possible to have been a minor tremor. But since it has never happened nobody has noticed it, we cannot be very sure except if we document what is happening and possibly attract the attention of experts who may decide to install monitoring equipment,” Ukpong, who also identified himself as a bio-geographer, said.