How strange winds killed eight, destroyed homes, schools, businesses in Bauchi
Paul Orude, Bauchi
On Saturday, June 16, Mohammed Isa, a soccer enthusiast, was watching the World Cup football match between Argentina and Iceland in Yelwa Labourer area of Bauchi.
With just about five minutes to the end of the game, a strong wind shook the wooden hall of the makeshift viewing centre. But the diehard football lovers remained rooted to their seats.
When the referee sounded the final whistle, there was no time for much debate, as everyone scampered out of the centre. By that time, the wind had become ferocious.
As the strong wind subsided, lsa left the Yelwa Labourer area, even as rain started falling. Isa was shocked to discover later that the windstorm caused much havoc.
He said after the match: “I began to hear stories of collapsed schools, houses and deaths. The next day, I discovered that the roof of where I had watched the match was blown off.”
Weeks before the windstorm, residents of Bauchi had experienced excessive heat, as the rains had ceased for a long while, even though the months of May and June usually recorded high rainfall. The sparse rainfall had been a source of concern to farmers and other residents.
Then came the windstorm, which started around 4pm on Saturday, after the end of the durbar or horse gallop known as ‘Hawan Daushe’, one of the traditional activities marking the Sallah festival, usually held at Government House, Bauchi.
As people retired home after the durbar, what followed was a windstorm that lasted two hours.
Accompanied by a downpour, statistics obtained from the Bauchi State Emergency Management Agency revealed that the windstorm claimed eight persons and injured over 120, destroyed 349 schools, 300 poles and affected no fewer than 5,000 houses. Buildings and trees that fell down killed persons and animals.
A resident, Malam Sani Al’amin, described it as a huge loss. Also, a lecturer at the A.D. Rufai College for Legal and Islamic Studies, Misau, Ibrahim Ismail, said he attended the funeral prayers for three victims of the windstorm in Kandahar Quarters as well as two other victims behind the Vocational Secondary School in Bauchi. Another person also died in Gudum, in the state capital.
The Bauchi regional office of Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JEDC) declared that more than 300 electricity poles and many transformers were damaged by the storm.
Head of JEDC’s technical unit, Abdullahi Hussaini, after inspecting the affected areas, said communication masts, insulators and armoured and aluminium cables were also badly affected by the disaster in many parts of the town. He said his office was currently preparing a report, which would be forwarded to the headquarters of the company in Jos for further action.
The company, while appealing to Bauchi residents to be patient and considerate over the concomitant darkness they would experience following the devastating impact of the windstorm, assured them that JEDC would fix the electric poles and transformers as soon as possible.
“The company is working tirelessly to restore power supply in Bauchi town. So, customers should exercise patience a bit. We also appeal to the state government to assist us,” he said.
One of the notable places affected by the disaster included Daar Communications Plc, owners of Africa Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower FM Radio, whose mast fell down, forcing the stations to go off air.
Not spared were the zonal office of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Tatari Ali Polytechnic, College of Education, Kangere, and Federal Government Girls College, among others.
The provost of the College of Education Kangere, Hajiya Hadiza Usman Isah, disclosed that the level of damage done by the windstorm in the school was enormous.
According to her, roofs of classrooms, staff quarters, hostels and offices as well as important documents were all destroyed.
Isah appealed to the state government to rehabilitate the affected structures in good time so that their academic calendar would not be affected.
Students of the college recounted their ordeal, lamenting that valuables such as books, clothes and foodstuffs were damaged by the storm. They also called on government and other bodies to come to their aid.
It was observed that many schools did not reopen immediately after the Sallah holiday, as classrooms were destroyed by the windstorm.
Also, the management of ATBU, Bauchi, called on the Federal Government to come to its aid after the windstorm that affected several buildings in the university.
The deputy vice chancellor, academics, Prof. Abdullahi Umar, who stood in for the vice chancellor, Prof. Saminu Ibrahim, made the appeal while taking journalists round the affected structures. He informed his audience that the windstorm affected 27 buildings in both the Gubi and the Yelwa campuses of the university.
Umar said that, at the Yelwa campus, the windstorm affected trees, one of which landed on the roof of a car, student hostels, the medical laboratory, the university’s secondary school, the bursary unit, academic buildings, staff quarters as well as the parameter wall.
The DVC said that that the the Zero Initiative Research Centre at the Yelwa campus was completely obliterated, following the destruction of the administrative block that was the backbone of the university’s information and communication technology.
Umar said the buildings affected at the Gubi campus included the university farm, the Dairy Research Project, Animal Clinic, the library and the medical college.
He said power lines were wrecked, while unfinished projects on the premises also suffered as a result of the damage.
“We appreciate the patience of our students in the midst of this challenge. Despite the fact that the disaster started during the period of examinations, the examinations were not interrupted. Our staff suffered losses but have joined us in our efforts to salvage the situation,” he said.
He added that, so far, the management of the university had been able to restore electricity and water supply, which were disrupted in the two campuses of the university.
Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar, accompanied by the Emir of Bauchi, Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu, visited some of the affected areas. The governor directed the State Emergency Management Agency to provide assistance to the victims.
Abubakar set up a committee, comprising ward heads, to assess the impact of the damage in their respective wards, with a view to submitting a comprehensive report to government.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday visited the state to commiserate with the government and people of Bauchi over the windstorm that killed residents and destroyed property worth billions of naira. The President had on Tuesday sent a delegation led by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to commiserate with the state.
Buhari, during a visit to the Emir of Bauchi, said he was in the state to commiserate with the government and people over the incident. He called on the people of the state to accept it as an act of God.
Other prominent personalities and politicians have also been sending condolence messages to victims of the windstorm.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in a press release issued by his special adviser on media, Turaki Hassan, sympathised with the people of the state over the incident. He called on relevant federal and state agencies to quickly provide relief materials to the victims to alleviate their suffering.
“I am deeply touched and saddened by the news of yet another natural disaster in Bauchi and some towns and villages, which caused various degrees of injuries and destroyed property in the affected areas.
“I also urge relevant government agencies to quickly move in and provide immediate assistance to the victims of this disaster and come up with necessary emergency preparedness and early warning mechanisms to mitigate the effects of such natural disasters,” he said.
While praying to God to prevent a recurrence, Dogara promised that he would provide relief to the victims within the shortest time.
A similar windstorm had occurred few months ago in 11 villages of Duguri District, Alkaleri Local Government Area, where three persons were killed. There were also similar incidents in Burgel and Shall villages in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of the state.
Public affairs analysts have opined that the catastrophe was caused by bad environmental practices such as unnecessary deforestation.
A commentator, Aliyu Bashir Almusawy, said climatic change was already here. He said it had been predicted a long time ago that Africa would bear the brunt of climate change more than any other part of the world.
He lamented that despite the impending calamity, people in the state pay little or no attention to the danger by recklessly cutting down trees to make charcoal – which is now a lucrative business in the state – without planting new trees.
“The windstorm that ravaged thousands of houses in Bauchi today is a clarion call and a reminder that the impact of climate change is real. Our reluctance to take action will only worsen the intensity of the calamity. It is up to us to promote awareness by engaging our population to wake up to the looming humanitarian crises ahead or posterity will curse us for doing nothing to safeguard the planet,” he said.