In Lagos, rainfall is fast becoming a curse rather than a blessing with the loss of lives and property occasioned as a result of heavy downpour, storm and flood. Last week, Lagos experienced that tragedy once again, Paul Dada writes.
Rainfall has been known for century as divine showers of blessing, and through history, it had provided the much needed blessings that mankind needed to survive. The availability of rainwater has been nature's solution to vices like famines and drought. El Nathan, a Christian poet, once wrote that "showers of blessing ... we need".
However, the rainfall that wrecked havoc in Lagos on the night of Wednesday, June 27 and Thursday, June 28, left little to be desired of the perceived blessings expected. Perhaps, if Nathan were to be living in Lagos, in this age, he would have sought a better analogy to pass his message.
Lagosians today no longer see the raining season as a period of blessing, as it has become far worse than what they expected.
Added to their predicament is the whirlwind that comes with the rains and the floods that ensue afterward. The rains in Lagos actually are not the major problem but the floods resulting from them, which normally lead to loss of lives and property.
Amongst the casualty of the rainfall was Ahmed Shotunminu who died as a result of the rainstorm that raged between the night of last Wednesday and Thursday.
As the storm raged, the debris from two collapsed structures fell onto an adjoining storey building, housing the 22-year-old carpenter, Ahmed Shotunminu, who was sleeping alongside, Biola Adesanya, on the same bed. Ahmed was said to have died instantly, while Biola reportedly escaped with head and arm injuries.
A neighbour, Odubanjo, who explained to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY, how the tragedy occurred, said: "At about 1.15am, Ahmed's father, Alhaji Olusoji, raised the alarm that we should help rescue his son.
We rushed to his apartment, but unfortunately, he was completely buried under the debris. It was only his leg that was visible. It took time before he could be removed from the debris, and by the time he was removed, he was found dead."
Continuing, the neighbour added that, "the two of them stayed in the boy's quarter of the main building and were both fast asleep when the fence collapsed. But Ahmed was not as lucky as his brother, who escaped with minor injuries.
"The bricks fell on him and he died instantly. I was sleeping in my house, which is opposite their apartment, when a call came in that the building had collapsed on them and I should come and assist. I quickly rushed to the scene, but we could only see his leg while the rest of his body was covered in the rubble," he lamented.
For over 10 hours, between Wednesday and Thursday of this past week, many areas in Lagos and some parts of Ogun State, experienced a torrential rainfall that left untold hardship on the people due to bad city planning. It left the affected areas submerged in flood.
In Lagos, the whole of the state tasted the bitter pill, as areas like Arowojobe and Akinwunmi estates in Maryland, parts of Ikeja GRA, Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Victoria Garden City (VGC), Ibeju-Lekki, Murtala Muhammed International Airport Road, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Yaba, Surulere, Gbagada, Oworonshoki, Mafoluku-Oshodi, Iyana-Ejigbo, Isheri-Osun, Berger-Alagbole Road, Ajegunle, Ikorodu Road, Ogijo and Odogunyan, were all affected.
Parts of Ogun State, being areas that share boundaries with Lagos, that were submerged included Akute, Alagbole, Olambe, and Ojodu-Abiodun, among others.
It was tough for commuters and motorists to negotiate through roads as most major roads had become a canal of sort. It was a great difficulty moving around the city of Lagos due of the flood that had taken over the cities, leading serious traffic grid-lock.
Commuters were forced to return home after waiting in various motor parks in vain for commercial vehicles that never came.
Areas that seemed worst hit by the traffic gridlock were the Mainland areas, such as Ogba, Ikeja, Orile-Agege, Alagbado, Iyana-Ipaja, Ipaja, Ayobo, Moshalashi, AIT Road, Kollington, Oke-Odo and Ahmadiyya. Between Ahmadiyya and Ijaiye on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, a portion of the road collapsed, leaving commuters stranded.
It was, however, another opportunity for commercial bus operators and motorcyclists, popularly referred to as Okada, to make more money as they inflated transport fares.
In places like Alagbado, Orile-Agege and communities along the old toll gate at Sango-Ota, the volume of the flood was very high. In some places the flood was said to have reached rooftops of bungalow structures. People had to evacuate their residence for safety. Many residents could not sleep in their houses as the whole place had been taken over by rain flood.
Possessions were lost to the floods, while some residents resorted to bailing out the flood water.
A lot of Lagosians had stories to tell on their experiences with the rainstorm and the flood.
An occupant of the building where Ahmed lived, Gbenga Durojaiye, stated that he would had been a victim of the incident if he had not attended an all-night prayer. "I stay upstairs and my room was affected.
The collapsed wall fell onto our bedroom and our kitchen. I thank God that I heeded my wife's call to attend our church's vigil in Ebute-Meta. Maybe, we would have been dead by now.
"My eight months old pregnant sister, Bosede, who slept in the sitting room when the incident happened, is currently in shock and has been put on bed rest because of this incident."
However, a 17-year-old boy, Abraham, at Mafoluku-Oshodi was not lucky as he was said to have been carried away by flood waters. It was learnt that Abraham was drowned at about 6.30am on Thursday when he was salvaging some planks he had gathered beside Sadiku canal in the area. He slipped into the canal when he was making an attempt to pick a plank that was being washed away by the flood water.
It was also learnt that no fewer than three persons were feared dead in different parts of the state because of the floods.
Residents of Badia-Ajeromi in Apapa-Iganmu Local Council Development Authority of Lagos State on Friday had been counting their losses after the rainstorm and flooding in the metropolis.
The Chairman of Badia-East Community Development Area, Mr. James Ilawole, confirmed that many people lost most of their belongings in the flood.
"The flood destroyed property worth several millions of naira in our area and many residents have so far been rendered homeless," Ilawole said.
The council chairman said children could not go to school after the flood destroyed their homes. He also described life in the community after the rain as miserable.
He pleaded with both the federal and state governments to assist the residents of the area to resume normal life.
The chairman added that a fence erected by a welding company in the area 15 years ago fell and blocked the drainage, and as a result, the flood water could not flow freely. "The blocked drain prevented free flow of rain water resulting in flooding of the area," he added.
A landlord in the area, Monday Owoyemi, narrated how his family slept outside after the disaster. Also, a trader, who identified herself as Olufunmi, said she lost goods worth N60,000 in the flood. "In spite of the flood and the losses, I am still grateful to God for saving my life," she said.
In Ejigbo area, Omotayo said her family kept vigil when they saw the impact of the rain. "The rain was so serious; the wind was scary. I had to gather my children together at about 2.00am after I heard the sound of the wall collapsing. Luckily, no one was hurt, but one of my neighbours had his car badly damaged by the wall, which fell," she told.
For Sebanjo Mojisola, a resident of Iyana-Isheri/Ijegun on the outskirts of Lagos, the incident was unprecedented. She said: "I have never seen so many people stranded in one place at a point in time. It was like a dead end.
People could not move because the flood was so much. I was carried on the back by some guys who used the period to make money. Okada operators could not even pass through; they stopped passengers and turned back."
A resident of Akinwunmi Estate in Mende, had this to say: "We are begging the government to come and clear the canal; it is because people build houses in the canal, that is why we are suffering like this. For the past 10 years, we have been experiencing this every raining season.
For some of us here, raining season is a time for sadness and loss. The government should please come and demolish all those houses that are built in the canal so that we won't experience this kind of disaster anymore," he lamented.
Continuing, he said: "Last year, all our office equipment was damaged and we had to replace all furniture we had. Now, it did not even rain for up to 24 hours, yet there was much damage. What would happen if there is continuous rain?"
Sunday Peters, who is an instrumentalist, urged the state government to come to their rescue in the area. "We do not have money to go up there and rent houses. I am lucky I did not keep my instruments in the house.
Look at people's beds, television and other furniture destroyed. Little children were rescued from getting drowned while the rain was still falling, and most of us have not even eaten because we are still trying to remove the water," he said.
At Okokomaiko, pupils of Fazil Omar Ahmadiyya Public Nursery and Primary Schools were directed to return home by one of the head-teachers because the school premises had been overtaken by flood waters. On Jimoh Street, the flood destroyed property of the residents leaving many to bail out water from their living rooms.
An Okokomaiko resident, Sam Adebowale, explained that people's belongings were destroyed because their living rooms were submerged by the flood. He further said that the damage was due to the fact that the drainage canals servicing the area were not cleared by the state government before the commencement of the rain.
Two workers, Afolabi Olayinka and Sikirat Ganiyu, who worked at a secondary school in Meiran, along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expresway, said the perennial floods in Lagos could be combated if the drainage channels and the bad roads are fixed by the government.
Both of them also wanted Lagosians to have attitudinal change. They condemned the situation where people dumped refuse in drainage channels thereby causing them to be blocked.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Sate Government has warned that in the next two weeks, the city would witness severe windstorm.
The Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, while speaking with journalists during the monitoring of parts of Lagos after the downpour, explained that the two-week period was envisaged to be the peak period of the 2012 rainy season.
"The notice of alert therefore becomes necessary in order to make adequate preparations for the coming rains and thunderstorms," he said.
Bello advised Lagosians who are residents in communities located in the lowlands to relocate to the uplands before the heavy rains start. The areas the Lagos commissioner was talking about include Eti-Osa, Badiya, Amukoko, Makoko, Iwaya, Ajegunle, Owode and Agiliti, among others.
"As a proactive and responsive administration, committed to the overall wellbeing of the residents, this alert becomes necessary to sensitise all the residents, especially those that reside in the flood-prone areas to be on the alert in order to prevent the loss of lives and property," he said.
The commissioner appealed to residents to clean the drainage channels in their neighbourhoods, warning against making the flooding worse through the dumping of waste into canals, and erecting of structures along drainage channels.
He advised residents, in case of emergency, to take full advantage of the Drainage Engineers and Drainage Maintenance officers posted to all the 57 local government areas of the state, and to relate with them effectively to solve their drainage challenges.
Bello explained that the officers are readily available to provide relief and solutions to all flooding challenges in each local government area of the state.