Kuramo Beach surge
By Gboyega Akinsanmi and Chiemelie Ezeobi
Just like Alpha Beach in July 2011, Kuramo Beach, an expansive recreational centre on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, has been submerged for two days. After seven days of raging waves and high tides, the ocean finally overflowed its banks at the weekend and lashed mercilessly at the beach, thus sweeping away about 15 persons, of which one death was immediately confirmed on Saturday.
By yesterday, the situation had not abated. But operatives of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and local volunteers remained undaunted and did not give up the search for the missing persons.
LASEMA’s rescue mission, led by Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, was able to yield some result, as three more bodies were recovered from the tempestuous waves, bringing the number of confirmed deaths from the ocean’s surge to four. The Health Environmental Monitoring Unit deposited the three bodies recovered from the ocean yesterday at the Isolo General Hospital mortuary.
While 11 persons were still missing, one of those recovered from the ocean included a six-year-old girl. Identified as Bisi Kolawole, her mother and siblings were among those still missing, thereby casting a dark cloud over the family, most of whom had given up hope of ever seeing their loved ones alive.
But the search for those who were still missing was ongoing until yesterday evening, though there was very little hope that any of the missing persons will ever be discovered alive, as the calamity struck more than 48 hours ago.
Irrespective of the official figures released by the state, the Secretary of the Kuramo Tourism Investors Association, Mr. Michael Onuwaje, Sunday faulted the statistics released by the state government on the number of persons who might have drowned as a result of the natural disaster.
According to Onuwaje, the number of those who were drowned could only be ascertained in the next few days when the ocean would have dumped the bodies on the shoreline.
Worried that the surge from the ocean was not abating, the state government yesterday ordered the demolition of shanties on the beach and the evacuation of their occupants. By yesterday, several shanties housing over 1,000 occupants had been demolished while their occupants were asked to leave the area to avert another crisis.
Explaining the rationale for demolishing the shanties, the state Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Mr. Adesegun Oniru, said the demolition, which commenced at about noon, was done to forestall the loss of more lives.
“The demolition was completed within one hour. The decision to demolish the entire structures at the beach was taken to save lives and property in the state. What is happening here is nothing to panic about. There is global warming all over the world and Nigeria is no exception.
“People, who were residing here before, cannot do that anymore. Kuramo Beach is now a thing of the past. Until we restore it back to its natural form, no one should come close to this area. It is not safe for anyone to trade or live here again. Anyone who was here yesterday will know that the ocean surge required the quick intervention of the state and Federal Government.
“But as a state government, we have brought in palliative measures to cushion the effects. One of the palliative measures was to bring heaps of sands from the ongoing construction site at the Eko Atlantic City to sand-fill some parts of the beach that was submerged on Saturday. With this, we were able to vacate the occupants.
“On Sunday morning, in order to reduce the losses incurred, we allowed the occupants of the structures to remove their personal effects before we completely demolished the shanties. After the demolition, the state government will commence major work immediately. It is until we complete our major work before anyone can return to this place for recreational purpose. No one will be allowed to come close to the beach,” he said.
Oke-Osanyintolu added that the demolition was done to stop residents from encroaching on the coastline in the state. He also revealed the state’s plan to cordon off the entire beach.
“We have advised those who were displaced to move out and search for better places within the state,” he said.
On the number of structures affected, Onuwaje disclosed that the surge affected over 28 cabins along the shoreline.
Also, the chairman of the resident’s association, Mr. Zubair Alashe, said: “Investors are in support of the government's action. The government has given us a directive that we should evacuate the beach and we are ready to do that.”
Speaking on the Atlantic Ocean’s surge yesterday, some environmentalists explained that though it could be traced to climate change, the human element could not be ruled out. They said shipwrecks, which are usually dumped and abandoned on Nigerian waterways, are a major cause of ocean surges.
Speaking to THISDAY, the Chairman, Fund Raising and Awareness Committee of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi, placed the blame squarely on the continuous dumping of wrecked ships on the high sea. He said the shipwrecks that are scattered all over Lekki and Alpha Beaches have resulted in the eroding of the shoreline, thereby exposing it to raging waves.
He warned that other coastal areas might be run over by waves if urgent steps are not taken to protect the shoreline. He said shipwrecks obstruct the free flow of water, lead to the degradation of coastal areas and cause erosion due to the uneven distribution of sand.
He warned that except prompt action is taken, ocean surges lead to devastating losses, adding “The situation is worse than it was yesterday (Saturday). Almost three quarters of the shoreline separating the lagoon from the ocean is gone. The shoreline is at a critical point and if not protected, I fear that the entire Victoria Island would be flooded. Kuramo Beach is very important because it has been a natural drainage system for the rains.”
A resident of the area, Mr. Ororonbi Abiodun, added that they were handicapped to handle the surging waves. According to him, the challenge was made more difficult by the fact that the ocean keeps encroaching on the shoreline. To buttress his point, he quoted oceanographers to have said that the ocean has eroded more than 100 meters into the shoreline.
He said: “Our fears are that if nothing is done soon, there won’t be any life left on the island. We thought that with the havoc the ocean wrecked at Alpha Beach, the government would have risen to its responsibility. They only know how to manage but not to prevent.
“Do not be surprised that when the hullabaloo recedes, the government would relax again until another havoc of greater magnitude happens. It is sad that the same issue keeps repeating itself. Look at Bar Beach; it took several similar incidents before protective barriers were constructed.”