Four more bodies were recovered Monday from the ocean surge that devastated Kuramo Beach, Lagos, even as the displaced residents and traders were trying to pick the pieces of their lives after the tragedy.
The Lagos State Government has also deployed more tractors at the beach to begin sand filling the ravaged shoreline.
Some 16 persons were feared killed as a result of the ocean surge and property, whose value is yet to be estimated, destroyed.
The recovery of four bodies yesterday brought to eight the number of bodies recovered so far. Among the bodies recovered yesterday was that of a yet-to-be identified young man which was covered with a pink cloth.
One body was found last Saturday when the ocean unleashed its fury on the beach and the next day, three more bodies were washed ashore, including that of six-year-old Bisi Kolawole.
As rescue workers, comprising officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and their counterparts from the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) intensified efforts to find more bodies, some of the residents have moved base to Bar Beach, adjacent to Kuramo Beach.
Yesterday, the debris-ridden Kuramo Beach was littered with the property of the displaced persons who were seen huddled together, not minding fresh threats from the ocean surge.
THISDAY gathered that the ocean had washed out the bodies of two more persons earlier only to sweep them back before rescuers could drag them out.
The tragedy has provided brisk business for street urchins who were seen loitering around to help with any task for a fee. Some of them nearly clashed with law enforcement agents yesterday when they protested an alleged breach of agreement. They had helped in conveying a body to the van of the Lagos State Health Environmental Monitoring Unit with registration number LA155A08 and accused the person who engaged them for not paying the negotiated fee.
According to the boys, they were promised N50,000 to help carry the body to the van but instead of paying the agreed fee, they said they were given N250 each.
While people were trying to calm them down, there was pandemonium a few metres away as some officials of the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) Brigade of the state Ministry of Environment swooped on those who had relocated to the Bar Beach and carted away their property.
While describing the officials’ action as sheer wickedness, some women who were among those affected said they were only waiting for a car that would help them relocate.
Although initial attempts to talk with some of the displaced persons were rebuffed, especially by a man who was simply identified as Baba Bisi, who was said to have lost all members of his family, those who later spoke lamented their condition.
They said the death of 16 persons from the community and their subsequent displacement had worsened their plight.
From what THISDAY gathered, theirs was a close-knit community that defied tribe or nationality. In Kuramo, everybody was each other’s family member, despite no blood ties binding them.
While some of the displaced persons called on the government to provide an alternative accommodation for them instead of just evicting them, others said they have lost faith in the government.
...Victims Narrate Ordeal
One of the displaced persons who has relocated to Bar Beach, Tobi Apena, an 18-year-old indigene of Ogun State, said the government could not help him after displacing him from his home of five years.
“I left my father’s house in Abeokuta in Ogun State five years ago to come to Lagos to better my life,” he said, adding that since then, he had been fending for himself.
On what he was doing for a living, he said he ran errands for traders and fun-seekers and lived on tips from them.
“The government cannot help me but truly, I do not want to beg before I can eat. If only someone can just take and train me in mechanical engineering, I am sure I will survive,” he said.
He took THISDAY to his new little nest since his displacement, which turned out to be some boulders. His bedroom is in the crevices of some of the boulders used as a protection against the waves at the Bar Beach. According to him, from his daily hustling, he makes about N200 but on weekends, he could make up to N400.
Another of the victims of the ocean surge is 22-year-old Demola Rasheed who said he lost friends and brothers in the incident.
“I lost some of my friends like Sunday, Oloya, Tunde, Alhaji and Mutiwa. It has been a painful experience but life has to go on. Currently, I just sleep on the sands of the beach once it is night,” he said.
He called on the government to help him and others start life afresh.
Another displaced Kuramo resident, Muyiwa Abdulsalam, blamed the government for the ocean surge. According to him, the state government’s construction work going on at Atlantic City aggravated the situation.
He said: “At night you will see the ships dredging the Atlantic City; the newest land development as big as Victoria Island. It is a new island that is being built by the Lagos State Government and some other stakeholders.
“It’s a high-brow area that is being built at the expense of the people at the shoreline. So, it is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. First it was Alpha Beach, now it is Kuramo, who knows the next beach in line?”
The state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems to have agreed with the submission of Abdulsalam. The party yesterday urged the Federal Government to halt the sand filling of the ocean and lagoons in the state in the overall interest of the country.
Doing so, the party’s spokesman, Taofik Gani, said in a statement, would help to forestall further loss of lives and destruction of property. The party also berated the state government for its handling of the tragedy at Kuramo Beach.
It said: "How on earth can a focused government waste billions of taxpayers’ money to ‘open up’ the ocean and the lagoon when it has vast undeveloped land that would cost far less to open up?”
The party demanded a stop to the Eko Atlantic project and immediate compensation to families of the dead and those who lost their property.