From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha, Jude Chinedu, Enugu, Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Exactly ten years after a terrible flood disaster hit Anambra State in 2012, history seems to be repeating itself again in the state this time, as no fewer than four of the seven local government areas in Anambra North zone of the state are presently under water.
The worst hit among the affected local government areas include Ogbaru, Anambra West, Anambra East and Ayamelum. The remaining local governments in the zone, Onitsha North, Onitsha South and Oyi are relatively safe and they presently serve as refugee centres for the displaced residents of the affected areas.
Residents of the affected areas are devastated as many have fled their homes for safety while others are counting their losses from the disaster running into millions of naira.
Such was the scenario at the Building Materials International Market, Ogidi, Idemili North LGA, Anambra State where no few than six plazas containing about 150 shops were submerged by flood last Tuesday. Though Idemili North is regarded as an upland area that ordinarily won’t be counted as flood-prone, the situation at the market was like a Tsunami that came without warning.
The terrified traders who are still counting their losses running into hundreds of millions of naira told Saturday Sun that the rain started that day like a normal thing experienced within the season. Suddenly, the water level started rising. While some tried to pack their goods that were displayed outside into the shops, the intensity of the flood became unbearable as everyone ran for dear lives.
One of the victims, Ekene Ndulue recounted how it occurred. Hear him: “The rain started around 4pm. We didn’t know that this one was unusual but when we realised that it has turned from normal to abnormal was when some of our goods started floating in the flood. We deal in building materials and the worst affected were those in cartons and fittings. Doors were ‘flying’ and ‘swimming ‘ in different directions in the flood while many other goods were either swept away or destroyed.
“The car park was submerged while almost all the vehicles parked even within the plaza were swallowed in the flood. One man who wanted to move his car, a Toyota Venza was trapped inside and he continued gasping for breath, but luckily, he survived. In fact, we thought that Armageddon had come and we were all perishing but to the glory of God, nobody died but we lost so much in material things.”
President General of the Building Materials International Market, Ogidi, Chief Jude Nwankwo who expressed sadness over the incident attributed the major cause of the flood disaster in the market to man-made obstacles.
Chief Nwankwo said some plot owners blocked the drainage channel in the course of constructing their stalls while efforts he made severally for them to give way for a proper drainage and water flow met a brick wall. He said that as it is now, only the enforcement efforts of the government can make the defaulters to do the right thing, even as he called for Governor Chukwuma Soludo’s intervention.
“We lost goods running into millions if not billions of naira. It affected our major road that leads to the extension market. I feel their pain and I know that if something is not done urgently, we might record another havoc of greater magnitude soon. I am appealing to the state government to come to our aid,” Chief Nwankwo said.
Some of the affected traders in the market, Benedict Chukwuelue, Harrison Ejimofor and Mrs Amaka Echetabiri as well as James Mkpuruoma said that the flood has caused them serious setback even as they expressed hope that a permanent solution will be adopted to tackle the situation and avert a repeat occurrence.
Elsewhere, Ogbaru Local Government is in terrible situation with the entire 15 communities in the area under water. Atani, the local government headquarters, is submerged in the flood while other communities affected in the area included Ohita, Okoti, Odekpe, Ogwuikpele, Ochuche, Amiyi, Akili Ozizor, Umunankwo, Ogwuaniocha, Ossomala, Mputu, Ado and Umuzu, among others.
When the reporter visited the area on Wednesday, it was like a war torn zone as some of the displaced persons parked their household property by the road side.
Residents who spoke said the situation is worsening by the day, as the level and magnitude of the flood keeps rising.
Many of the residents chose to erect makeshift structures by the roadside where they sleep, cook and bathe on daily basis. At Odekpe where most residents trading at Bridge head market live, everywhere was flooded even as boat operators made brisk business ferrying passengers across the flooded areas. Some dangerous reptiles washed ashore in the flooding were killed by the distraught victims.
Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, who visited St. Patricks Catholic Church, Odekpe last Sunday braved all odds as he had to paddle on a canoe to get to the church premises because the entire buildings in the area had been submerged by the flood.
One of the residents, Arinze Obaze who spoke to Saturday Sun lamented that the major road linking Ossomala-Umunankwo to Ogwuikpele has been cut off by the flood, leaving residents in the area completely stranded.
Family members who lost their loved ones to the boat accident that occurred at Umunankwo en route the Ogbakuba- Ossomala axis of Ogbaru are still in mourning mood.
A survivor, Felicia Omebu, who recalled the sad incident, said most of the occupants of the boat carried foodstuff and farming produce which they wanted to sell at the Nkwo Ogbakuba Market before the tragedy occurred.
Transition Council Chairman of Ogbaru Local Government Area, Hon. Paschal Anaegbunam in a chat with Saturday Sun described the situation as a challenging period for the people of the area. But he expressed optimism that normal life will return again when the flood recedes. He said those rescued alive in the boat mishap has been reunited with their families. He confirmed that 30 people were rescued alive while ten corpses have been recovered also from the water.
Anaegbunam said there are four camps established officially by the state government located at Iyiowa, Odekpe and Atani while there are other unofficial camps where those affected take care of themselves too in the area.
He also advised that anyone embarking on boat journeys henceforth should endeavour to put on a life jacket as a safety measure.
Meanwhile, more deaths have been recorded through drowning in the affected areas in Anambra West. A trending video on Wednesday showed footages of six family members who drowned in Nzam community and their lifeless bodies being pulled out by wailing community members. That same day, travellers were stranded on the busy Ayamelum –Adani –Nsukka federal road where travellers from the Benue and Kogi states coming to Onitsha now take because of the bad condition of the Enugu-9th Mile expressway. The flood from the Omambala /Ezu River overflew its banks and covered the entire stretch of Anaku, headquarters of Ayamelum Local Government forcing commuters to beat a retreat. Some of the travellers after waiting for hours had to turn back and cancel their journey.
Executive Secretary, State Emergency Management Authority (SEMA) Paul Odenigbo confirmed that many people have now been evacuated from their homes and quartered in camps. He said government takes care of the feeding of the internally displaced people for now inside the camps while also providing their other basic needs. Odenigbo disclosed that there are 27 holding camps presently spread across the seven local governments in Anambra North with some located in Ayamelum for people from Aguleri Otu, Enugu otu and Eziagulu Otu , Mkpunado Aguleri etc.
He said other ones located at Anambra East Local Government Area include the one at Fr. Joseph Memorial Secondary School in Aguleri and about three other located in Onitsha North local government area like the Crowther Memorial Primary School housing the people of Anambra West Local Government Area whose entire communities are presently under water.
Governor Chukwuma Soludo in a message said Anambra State Government is doing everything possible to alleviate the sufferings of the people.
Already the governor has ordered immediate closure of schools in the affected areas and said a separated academic calendar will be adopted for the affected communities which will be applied when the situation subsides.
There are predictions by experts that 12 out of the 21 local government areas in Anambra State may be affected by the flood in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency and the Disaster Response Unit of the military has commenced aerial view of the flooded communities in Anambra. The exercise is to ascertain persons who are still trapped by the rising flood with a view to airlifting them out of the affected communities.
The Zonal Coordinator of NEMA, South-East, Thickman Tanimu, made this known in Awka. He said the presidency and the Director-General of NEMA, Mustapha Ahmed-Habib, commiserated with the state government and flood victims including the bereaved.
He said relief materials had been approved for the flood victims, adding that the materials would be presented directly to them while the items are meant to complement the efforts of Anambra State government in providing immediate succour to victims and aid their speedy rehabilitation.
Mr Tanimu also confirmed the death of one Ginikanwa Izuoba in the Enugu-Otu, Aguleri flood. He said Izuoba died when her house collapsed due to the impact of the flood.
He also informed that no fewer than 651, 053 persons in six local government areas of Anambra State have so far been displaced by flooding. From NEMA’s record on Anambra, Ogbaru has the highest number of victims with 286,000 persons. Anambra West and East Local Government Areas (LGAs) follow with 237,000 and 103,000 victims, respectively. Awka North LGA has 10, 345 victims, while Ayamelum has 9, 240 flood cases with 5, 468 displaced persons.
It was gathered that NEMA officials, accompanied by officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), have visited Umueze-Anam, Mkpunando, Umunteze, Igbedo, Inoma Ifite-Ogwari in Anambra East, and Anyamelum LGAs. The state governor, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo has equally visited all the affected areas and constituted a task force comprising the deputy governor, Commissioners for Local Government, Health, Power and Water Resources to immediately engage the displaced people and ensure that the essential items and services they required are provided.
Mr Tanimu stated: “The assessment team observed that the flood has submerged houses, farmlands, schools, health centres, police stations, churches and other critical infrastructure. We did the assessment tour with a boat because the access roads to the communities have been submerged by floodwater.”
Tanimu commended the Anambra SEMA for taking some proactive measures to mitigate the impact of the disaster. Some of the measures already taken included the identification of 13 Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps, recruitment of camp managers and support staff, and activation of health workers to work with the people in the camps. The camps so far activated are the Ifite-Ogwari and Igbakwu Health Centres.
In the words of Tanimu, “the assessment tour is the first step the Federal Government has to take. We have reported our findings to the management of the agency and based on that, they can now deploy relief materials as appropriate. We once again advise villagers to move to the holding camps to avert further loss of lives.
“There is a clear emergency in the land. Schools in the riverine communities have been shut. There is the urgent need to supply clothing, diapers, beddings, sanitary materials, sundry food items, and other relief materials to salvage a very bad situation that the states cannot tackle alone,” he noted.
More woes in Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi
The fury of the flood is not restricted to Anambra. No fewer than 33 communities have been displaced in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State while over 30,000 persons were rendered homeless in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State, by ferocious flooding. Over 10, 000 hectares of farmlands were also submerged by the flood. Some of the affected communities in Imo comprised Abacheke, Ogbedeyi, Ogboru, Okishikpa, Umudeyiezege, Umueze, Umuezukwefi, Umulakpu, Umuogrinya, and Umuojioke.
Others are: Mmahu, Abaeze, Umuoji, Obeakpu, Obiakpu, Etekwuru, Obokofia, Mgbara, Oforola, Umudike, Ekugba, Opuoma, Okwuzi, Mgbede, Aggah, Uzuagbai, Iyomikwu, Iberu, Eyoka, Ukpa, Edekamagha, Nwamjuamuyi, Tumali, Abaraukwu, and Utuogo.
The neighbouring Oguta LGA was not spared as settlements have been reportedly washed away by the menacing flood. A source from one of the communities told Saturday Sun that the incident might not be unconnected to the overflow of the Oguta Lake and Orashi River. Traditional ruler of Abacheke, Eze Ikeji Bright, extolled officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for their prompt response, but begged the agency to work out reliefs for his people whom he said were predominantly farmers and fishermen. The monarch regretted that many of his subjects are now “refugees” in their own communities due to the surging flood which submerged their houses and the only secondary school in the area.
Other indigenes of the area who appealed to the Federal Government to come to their aide, also expressed fears that if urgent steps were not taken, there might be outbreak of waterborne diseases. Team Leader and Principal Search and Rescue Officer of NEMA in Imo State, Innocent Nwaeze after assessment of the incident, said the situation was very severe, promising that the agency would put together a compressive report of their assessment to enable the Federal Government come to the aid of the people of the area.
“From what we have seen here, there is going to be cases of secondary emergency situation as a result of this flood incident. I advise the people of the affected communities to urgently relocate from the affected areas and as well relocate their children to a safer ground,” Nwaeze said.
Also, farmers and rural dwellers of six communities of Uzo-Uwani in Enugu State are still counting their losses due to heavy flooding.
The affected communities include Ogurugu, Igga/Ojjor, Adani, Ogbosu, Amagu and Eziora communities in Ogboli and Mbanano zones of the local government. An official of the local government council, Solomon Gwiyi, told our correspondent that rice farms, cassava farms, roads, buildings, bridges were destroyed in the affected communities.
He disclosed that the chairman of the council, Chukwudi Nnadozie, has visited Ogurugu, one of the affected communities, to assess the situation, including the Ogurugu Jetty which was completely covered up to its rail level by the flood. The council official said: “Nnadozie described the situation as the heaviest of all times in the area. He assured them of government’s urgent interventions.”
Gwiyi further stated that officials of the Enugu State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), had also visited the affected communities. “They promised to relay their findings to the NEMA for urgent intervention,” he said.
In Ebonyi State, particularly in Ikwo Local Government Area, residents of Ogagbo Igbudu and Ndiegu Amagu Ikwo among other communities, have been thrown into deep sorrow. In fact, a source claimed that all communities in the local government that share boundaries with Cross River State were affected. It was alleged that houses, markets and farmlands in the affected areas were also completely. Chairman of Ebonyi SEMA, Mrs. Ann Aligwe, declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Saturday Sun.