From Mokwugwo Solomon, Nnewi
Students of Father Joseph Memorial High School, Aguleri, Anambra East Local Government, Anambra State, came back from the Easter break to commence academic activities the following Monday. But little did they know that fate had unpalatable package in stock for them.
A windstorm that occurred in the midnight of April 10 wreaked havoc on the school. Mostly affected was one of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) holding camps where over 10 buildings were badly damaged.
Tens of houses were also destroyed in parts of the state, especially in Aguleri, Governor Willie Obiano’s community. The situation was so severe at the Justice Chinwuba Memorial Secondary School, Aguleri, as the natural disaster blew off roofs, forcing some of the students to study under the trees.
Two students of Father Joseph High School, Chidera Udo and Akachukwu Atupulazi, told Daily Sun: “We were in the hostel, when the breeze started. It pushed our doors and took roofs off. We were all scared.”
Principal of the school, Rev. Father Izuu Okafor, described the development as shocking and devastating: “The ferocious wind damaged 14 buildings and 15 electric poles, including the refectory, teachers’ quarters, classroom blocks and hostels, thereby, leaving more than 2,000 students stranded.
“The incident disrupted electricity supply to the 61-year-old school, owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, while water supply is also adversely affected.”
He expressed joy that there was no loss of lives but blamed the level of destruction on the lack of trees on the school premises, which ought to serve as windbreaker: “It happened around 8.30pm on Saturday, the day our students returned from the Easter break.
“The windstorm came suddenly, pulled off the roof of our pavilion; destroyed our hall, library and some buildings in our staff quarters. I’ve never witnessed such devastating incident; almost all the buildings in the school were affected.
“We are calling on government at all levels, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA); State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), churches; let them come to our help. Our students will soon start exams, and there are not enough classrooms for them now.”
An old student of the school, Mike Meze, thanked God that no life was lost during the windstorm: “The development called for urgent government intervention to enable the affected students, especially those in junior and senior secondary examination classes, resume studies in full.
“The windstorm shattered some structures recently erected by the old boys of the school. We are really confused; we had plans that before the end of this year, we would build bigger structures that would have sick bay including 3,000 sitting capacity auditorium; but look at this now; government must act fast.”
President of the Old Boys Association of the school, Dr Emman Udeakpeh, said the college community was still in shock over the incident: “The incident looked like damage by a tornado, considering the magnitude of the destruction. It was a incident as a natural disaster.
“We are still consulting and working round the clock to ensure that normal academic activities return in the school. We need the efforts of everybody to fix the damaged infrastructure because the school and church cannot do it alone.
“For the old boys, it is a trying moment and an emergency situation but we are doing our best to ensure normalcy returns. We advise that people go into massive tree planting to protect our environment. This will help to reduce the effect of this type of storm.”
Principal, Justice Chinwuba Memorial Secondary School, Aguleri, Emmanuel Anerobi, said: “We’re in need now; look at our classroom blocks; I told the contractor when he was roofing this structure that he was using substandard materials; now see it, the windstorm has carried it away.” A student of the school, Eucharia Okagbue, said: “Only the federal and state governments can be able to handle the level of devastations.”
Joe Enemuo, a member of the Post Primary School Service Commission (PPSSC), Otuocha Zone, and director of the commission in the area, Ogochukwu Obi, inspected the level of damage done to the schools. Enemuo noted that only the federal and state governments would be able to tackle the magnitude of devastation. Obi said: “We thank God no life was lost, and no child was injured.
“This is a serious damage done to the schools, and we are pleading with government to come urgently.” Daily Sun learnt that the disaster also affected private buildings and shops in the area, causing untold hardship to the people, who are predominantly farmers.
SEMA Executive Secretary, Paul Odenigbo, represented by Chukwudi Onyejekwe, said: “This is the biggest holding camp we have in Anambra State for flood victims. The blocks we used to camp them, everything was destroyed. That is why we contacted NEMA immediately to see things for themselves, and come to our assistance, as the state cannot handle it alone. Several other residential houses and places of worship were also destroyed by the windstorm, in different parts of Anambra.”
Coordinator of NEMA Enugu Zone, Major Eze, confirmed that the roofing of the Justice Chinwuba Secondary School was done with substandard materials that got destroyed barely two years after the school block was constructed. He disclosed that an official report would be sent to the Federal Government for urgent intervention to the affected victims even as he expressed shock over the level of devastation.