Victor Efeizomor writes on the discomfort of the flood victims in Delta State and the efforts of the State government to alleviate the suffering of the people
Curdling her two month old baby, one could see the clear expression of anger on her face where she sat on a small bench at the far corner of the makeshift accommodation inside the Institute of Continue Education (ICE) relief camp. Mrs. Ifeoma Comfort, 25 year old mother of two is a victim of the ravaging flood disaster in Delta State. Last week, her family’s one-bedroom apartment in Anwai, near Asaba was submerged in water.
“We have not seen this kind of thing before since we parked into this area. When it rains, there will be flood, but after some time it will go away, but this one took us unaware; we woke up in the middle of the night to discover that everywhere has been covered with water, even when it did not rain. Here we are in the camp, living like destitute. It is a very painful experience, because my husband and I have lost all we have gathered over the years to the flood,” she said.
Mike Okonkwuo, a fisher man in Oko, an outskirt of Asaba, lay on the mattress that was provided by the Delta State government’s Emergency Relief Agency staring at the ceiling, while his three sons entertained him with a hide and sick game. The children were oblivious of the emotional torture their father was passing through at the open field inside the St Patrick’s College relief camp where they have taken refuge.
Okonkwuo gazed at this reporter for some time and suddenly said, “It is like the end time people talked about in the Bible has eventually come. It reminds me of the story of Noah in the Bible when God destroyed the world with water. I used to have a house where I lived with my children, but today I am a refugee in the camp, sleeping in a hall with over twenty people inside. It’s unfortunate, but all the same I give thanks to God and the Delta State government for providing us with feeding and accommodation. I have been here since two weeks now after my house was submerged in the flood; I can no longer even do my fishing business because everywhere has been taken over by the water.
The former secretary to the old Bendel State government and Iyase of Asaba, Chief Patrick Onyeobi was not so lucky either as his country home was severely hit by the rampaging flood, submerging a part of the compound. Before now, the shoreline around his house by the River Niger was much secured and no one ever thought the vexatious river Niger could have been so offended to rise to such a level as to sack the former SSG.
Also affected by the flood is the Nigerian Immigration Service office along Asaba –Onisha expressway as the entire office complex that accommodates about 120 staff of the service has been taken over by the flood.
They are not alone in this tragic situation. Scores of displaced persons are now seeking refuge in the camps provided by the state government to provide temporary relief for the victims.
From Asaba, the state capital, to Anwai, Oko, Ewulu down to Utchi to Aboh, Abari and Bomadi, it has been a tale of woe, suffering, bewilderment, anguish and restlessness.
Residents were displaced, even as over 1,000 houses are believed to have collapsed as a result of the flood. Other communities devastated by the flood are Aniocha North, Ndokwa land, Isoko, Patani, Bomadi and Burutu communities amongst others, trapping both the young and elderly, destroying farm lands and economic trees.
Communities most affected along the River Niger are: Aballa-Oshimili, Utchi Communities of Okwumedo, Umuochi, Owelle, Obalu and Obeche, Okpai, Abalagada, Aboh, Abuato, Ugbene, Agwe-Iyom, Ise-Onokpo, Onuobiuku, Umu-Ugbome, Umu-Uti, Afiankwo, Umuolu, Adiai, Utuoku, Oworubia, Wari-Irri, and Onyah.
Other communities affected also include; Aballa-Obodo, Aballa-Uno, Inyi communities of (Umu-Inyagbo, Obeche, Umu-Agwuyam, Isiolu, Umuoga, Ezinyi, Utuke, Ude, Ogigogwe, Ezeagba), Umu-Eche, Ogwasi, Umugwo, Umuazu, and Ozala, all in Onuaboh.
The flood also destroyed communities of Akarai, Azagba, Ekpe, Ibedeni, Osafu, Ase, Asaba-Ase, Onogbokor, Iyede-Ame and Anyama.
In a swift response, the Delta State government opened relief camps to take care of the displaced persons at Asaba, Tuomo in Burutu Bomadi, Okwagbe in Ughelli South, Patani, and Aboh among other places.
On a daily basis, the camps are receiving more victims, that has compelled the State government to open additional camps at Institute of Continuing Education (I.C.E) to take in people from Utchi and Oko communities to compliment the St Patrick College camps for hundreds of displaced persons in Asaba.
The Delta State governor, Mr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, speaking on the development, said, “This year’s flood is unprecedented; the latest disaster was triggered by the unusually heavy rainfall that was recorded this year and the opening of the Lagdo Dam in Cameroun, which was thought to be a proactive step to contain the flood. If they had delayed further, it would have been a major catastrophe”.
The governor, who inspected the affected areas in the state expressed shock at the extent of the damage by the flood.
He stated that no structural development would be allowed within 10 kilometers inside the flood prone areas in order to ensure that no life or property is lost in the future.
He also said that there would be a major reclamation of land around Infant Jesus area in Asaba, along the River Niger banks, through Okwe to Oko communities.
“There is a lot of work to be done. First, the extent of the flooding is quite deep inside, about 10km; those places are regarded as flood prone areas, and we will not allow development to take place in the area, there is need for reclamation,” he stated.
The governor said that the frequent inspection of the affected areas became necessary in order to be able to make effective and comprehensive plans for the victims and the areas affected.
He noted that the extent of the damage was enormous for the state and even the Federal Government to handle, and therefore called on well meaning individuals to assist the government in ameliorating the sufferings of the victims.
He commended the Red Cross, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and some individuals who had come to the aid of the victims.
Commissioner for Special Duties, Chief Tony Nwaka said the decision to open more camps was to ensure that for every community or local government affected by the flood, there is a rehabilitation centre very close to accommodate and cater for the victims, adding that the number of displaced persons accessing the camps on daily basis was on the increase, as the Ashaka relief camp has already recorded more than 500 displaced persons.
Nwaka, who is also the head of the relief materials distribution team, said that generators have been provided in some of the camps to supply electricity, while efforts are being made to provide for others, adding that government had also provided drugs for the medical care of the victims. He said that apart from feeding the displaced persons, government had provided mattresses and insecticide treated nets in thousands to the camps.
The state Deputy Governor, Prof. Amos Utuama while inspecting affected areas, lamented the devastating effect of the flood on the riverine communities, and promised that the State government is committed to taking short, medium and long term measures aimed at solving the problem of flooding in the State.
The people of Umuoru and its surrounding communities have also cried out for assistance as the flood continued to render them homeless. When THISDAY visited the communities, those who spoke at Umoru, Onyah, Okpokirika-Ogbese, Umuti, and Akarai-Etiti, among others stated that they need urgent assistance from the Government and its agencies. They said that it is a noble effort by the government to have provided the relief camps, but according to them it was difficult to access the camps and no boat has been made available to transport them.
Those who spoke include, Mr Clement Onyah who took THISDAY on a guided tour around some of the communities affected by the flood.
As the flood spread its wings now claiming 21 States of the federation, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has warned States yet to be affected to prepare before the flood comes.
NIMET also warned Nigerians to take precautions against violent winds that may occur during the dry season, due to the effects of climate change.
According to the Director-General of NIMET, Dr Anthony Anuforom, windy weather is expected during the dry season, following more heavy rains, likely to lead to more floods between September and October.
He cautioned people not to stay under trees during the period.
``We are transiting now from rainy to dry season; the kind of things we may experience are violent winds. Therefore, we advice people to avoid staying under trees. ``The reason why we alert people is for them to know ahead of time and take necessary precautions.
``We have no ability to protect natural disasters, but the ability to observe what the weather is and inform the people early,” he said.