From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Residents of Port Harcourt and neighbouring towns, in Rivers State, will not forget the downpour of Saturday, July 22 and Sunday, July 23, in a hurry.
The rain destroyed unquantifiable property and rendered many homeless.
Also, a 25-year-old trader at Mile One Market, was electrocuted on that fateful Saturday night. The victim reportedly returned from market and entered his apartment in Oloibiri Street in D-Line, Port Harcourt, unknown to him that one of the electricity appliances was in contact with water.
A resident, Nich Uche, explained that it was a neighbour, who noticed his lifeless body and raised the alarm.
The rainfall, which started early Saturday morning continued till Sunday evening, causing drainages to overflow into some streets. Some of the affected areas included Uyo, Awka, Okija, Kaduna, and Oloibiri located near the end of D-Line in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area.
Also affected were Rumuolumeni community and some areas along Aba Road, which included the office of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), where official and impounded vehicles were submerged.
The FRSC office was badly affected by the flooding, which forced the personnel on weekend duty, to abandon the first floor of the three-storey building, for safety. They were trapped there till Monday, when the flood subsided.
The entire Aba Road, by FRSC axis, would have been impassable on Saturday and Sunday, but for the Kaduna and Nzimiro streets flyover, which prevented the flood which had already overflown the Ntawogba canal, from crossing the ever-busy road.
Unfortunately, the flood surged into the FRSC premises, warehouses, residential houses and churches in the affected Awka and Uyo Streets.
One of the Warehouses close to former Savannah Bank building on Aba Road, was one of the worse affected. It was gathered that hundreds of bags of rice and beans, stored in the property were destroyed.
During a visit to the place on Sunday evening, labourers were busy evacuating the soaked goods from the Warehouse into lorries.
After rainfall on Saturday, residents of some of the affected areas moved their property to safer locations . But while they battled to recover from Saturday incident, it seemed as if the cloud was let loose on Sunday morning, thereby increasing the volume of flood which spilled over to the areas hitherto perceived as safe.
Another resident of D-Line, simply identified as Ekanem, whose one bedroom apartment was fllooded said he managed to move his family to his elder sister’s residence in Woji.
Ekanem explained that when he sensed danger, he picked some property and documents and drove to Woji, where according to him, members of his family would stay for some time.
Ekanem, however, appealed to the government to pay more attention on the drainage. He thanked God for the wisdom He gave him to think ahead the outcome of the flood, by relocating his family members.
“I am grateful to God that the matter can still be controlled, because it could have been worse. This is a warning sign that should be taken seriously. But I am not the government,” he said.
Similarly, the Fugerole axis in Oyigbo Local Government Area, also along Aba Road, was not spared by the flood, despite the fact that the road was recently rehabilitated by the state government, following complaints from motorists, especially tanker drivers.
Commuters and other road users did not find it easy too. As motorists struggled to navigate through the only lane, after the water in the other lane had risen far above its level, there was confusion as motorists, in their rush to wade through the flood, caused serious traffic gridlock.
In Rumuolumeni, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, which was also affected, some churches could not hold Sunday service as the area was flooded and could not be accessed on foot.
In the community, over 100 homes and four churches were reportedly sacked and property worth millions of naira lost.
Residents attributed the flooding to lack of drainage system in the area.
One of the affected landlords, identified as Benibo, blamed the construction company handling the Rumuolumeni/Iwofe Road project for their woes.
He noted that the company did not construct good drainage to flank the newly built road in the area, pointing out that the water became too heavy for the gutters to carry.
According to Benibo, residents had severally approached the company to complain about the poor drainage system that channels water into a canal. He also noted that blocked drainage obstructed free flow of water.
“We have been rendered homeless because of flood. My family slept inside a church, far from this place, while I slept inside my car. Even, one of my neighbours has not been seen since last night (Saturday). We saw him parking his property in the afternoon, and as at that time, his family had already moved to another place. Nobody knows what has happened to him now.
“The MCC company, which constructed the road is the cause of all this suffering. I remember we invited them when they were constructing this Iwofe Road, which even attracted the attention of Governor Nyesom Wike, who ordered them to canalise the area properly. But, they did not listen. Now, the small canal has been blocked and water is not flowing,” he lamented.
Similarly, Pastor Namso Udoh, complained that since the construction of the Rumuolumeni-Iwofe Road, they had never lived comfortably.
Pastor Udoh called on the state government to intervene to save residents from continuous flooding.
He called for provision of relief materials for the affected families to ameliorate the suffering encountered by the residents.
Also, a cleric of the Anglican Church in the area, Rev. Joe, called on the government to respond to the plights of residents, especially those twho lost their homes and property.
Meanwhile, engineers from Julius Berger and the state Ministry of Works have commenced preliminary work at different flood impacted locations in the state.
This followed a directive by Governor Wike, after his visit to some of the areas affected by the ravaging flood.
Governor Wike, after inspecting the affected area directed that immediate remedial measures to be taken.
He reiterated that his administration would take steps to stop recurrence.
He, however, appealed to residents to desist from building on waterways, noting that resolving flood challenges in the state requires every hand to be on deck. He also admonished Port Harcourt residents to desist from dumping refuse indiscriminately, especially into gutters.