11 September 2012

Nigeria: NEMA Says More Floods Coming As 1,000 Houses Destroyed in Makurdi

Photo: Vanguard
River Benue surge

As the heavy downpour continue and rivers overflow their banks, the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) yesterday issued a flood alert for the immediate evacuation of all communities along the plains of River Niger.

Six states - Niger, Kogi, Kwara, Kebbi, Anambra and Delta - are at risk of imminent flooding.

The alert was issued just as Makurdi, the Benue State capital witnessed heavy flooding that destroyed over a thousand houses and displaced scores of people. Five people were declared missing in the floods.

NEMA's alert said Jebba and Kainji dams had attained their highest water levels in 29 years and said the states at risk of imminent flood have already been notified to take necessary precautionary measures by relocating people from the flood prone areas and activate the National Contingency Plan to avert loss of lives and property.

It also said a rapid assessment team had been despatched to Kainji and Jebba to inspect the situation.

The Makurdi floods yesterday destroyed property worth millions of naira, two weeks after the floodgates of the Lagda Dam in Cameroun were opened, killing several people and destroying several houses and farmlands in Adamawa State.

The state Ministry of Water Resources and Environment, and the State Emergency Management Agency had ordered residents of flood-prone communities to vacate the areas, but many of the inhabitants did not heed the warnings.

LEADERSHIP yesterday witnessed the victims crying out over the wanton destruction caused by the flood: many houses and other property were submerged in the waters.

Some of the affected houses include that of the former governor of Benue State, Rev. Fr. Moses Adasu, and Kyabiz Hotel located along the Makurdi-Gboko road.

A victim, Mr. Bright Dakor, told newsmen: "The water started coming since last Friday but the situation worsened on Saturday when there was heavy rainfall. But we also believe that it may be as a result of the dam that overflowed from Cameroun. This has destroyed all our property and we do not have anywhere to stay. We appeal to government to come to our aid."

The executive secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr. Adikpo Agbatse, attributed the massive destruction to the refusal of residents to abide by the order to vacate.

Benue State governor Gabriel Suswam, who visited the scene of the incident yesterday, described it as very unfortunate, adding that it was a natural disaster and that the people should not blame government or themselves. He said the state government would hasten efforts to construct drainages and evacuate affected residents.

"This incident is very unfortunate and I want to say that, on our part as government, we will hasten to evacuate residents who are grossly affected. And we shall first of all start with the construction of drainages around these affected areas. But I want to sincerely appeal to the federal government to intervene and to render maximum assistance so as to prevent further occurrence of flooding in other parts of the state," Suswam said.

137 killed since July - Red Cross

In a related development, the Red Cross said yesterday that flooding across the country had killed at least 137 people and displaced more than 35,000 since July.

Heavy rainfall in two northern states has spilled contaminants into drinking wells, leading to a cholera outbreak that has killed at least eight and left scores of others hospitalised, according to local officials.

Various agencies have offered different figures for the lives lost during the rainy season and the Red Cross did not include the cholera deaths among its flood toll.

The states affected by floods range from Lagos in the southwest to Adamawa in the northeast, where at least 30 people died following the release of water from a dam in Cameroon that caused Nigeria's River Benue to overflow.

The disaster management coordinator with the Nigeria Red Cross, Umar Mairiga, who provided the death toll, said 36,331 people had been displaced across 15 affected states.

The heavy rainfall has propelled a cholera outbreak in several west African countries and officials in northern Nigeria have confirmed at least 135 cases.

In Katsina state, the chairman of the Faskari local government area, Isyaku Faskari-Ahmed, said two villages had "lost eight people to cholera (and) more than 70 were hospitalised from the disease".

Emergency officials in Adamawa state have reported 65 cases, but no deaths.

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