By Vincent Ujumadu
FROM Ogwu in Ogbaru to Anaku in Ayamelum; from Aguleri Otu in Anambra East to Nzam in Anambra West, the cry of the flood victims is the same and that is that unless assistance comes their way as soon as possible, they would be ruined forever.
Those who spoke with Saturday Vanguard said everything they acquired in their lifetime had gone with the flood, which they claimed, took them by surprise.
Though the flood was initially thought to be the usual thing that happens every year, in which farmlands were flooded after harvesting crops, it turned out that this year’s flood was totally different.
According to a farmer from Akili Ozizo in Ogbaru, Mr. Paul Ifedi, the last time a similar flood was witnessed was in 1969, adding that even at that, the 1969 flood happened after all crops were harvested.
Educational Institutions, public and private buildings in the affected areas been submerged, forcing authorities to close down schools.
For instance, the Atani campus of the Federal Polytechnic, Oko has completely been submerged, necessitating immediate evacuation of the about 3000 students and staff of the institution to safer places, just as most parts of Oba Ofemili in Awka North local government area of Anambra State had also been flooded.
Rector of Oko Federal Polytechnic, Prof Godwin Onu, had to deploy 10 coaster buses to the school, which had been evacuating the students and their property, while hundreds of families in the institution’s host community of Atani sacked by the menacing flood have been moving out of the town. Other parts of Atani town and neighbouring Akili, Osuche, Osomala, Ogbakuba, among others, are seriously under threat of flood.
Apart from the buildings that were submerged, properties of the polytechnic, including generating sets, office furniture and documents were destroyed. The menacing flood had seriously affected most of the communities in Ogbaru, prompting farmers in the area to harvest crops that were not mature.
At Oba Ofemili in Awka North local government, it was a pathetic story when Saturday Vanguard visited the community as flooding in the area had rendered hundreds of people homeless.
Like in Ogbaru, all the farm produce and most domestic animals had all died. The Regent of the community, Chief Anaelo Nwanelo and the president general of the town union, Mr. Nwabufor Chukwuma, who shed tears at the development, supervised the evacuation of their people out of the community.
According to them, over 350 buildings in the community have been submerged since the flooding began last month. The flood is still moving rapidly towards the neighbouring communities of Ugbene and Ugbenu.
The transition chairman of Awka North local government area, Lady Joy Enweluzo, who described the situation as terrible, called on the state and federal governments to come to the rescue of her people.
She said: “From what I have seen, this problem is beyond what the state government can handle. I have been hearing of flooding in Nigeria , but this year’s has surpassed all the previous ones.
“Over 1500 farm lands have been submerged in this local government area and one of the most painful aspect of it is that the solar energy built for this community by Guinness Plc, which was commissioned in April this year has been submerged”.
“All the eight villages that make up Oba Ofemili namely, Umuanyafulu, Umuezeaku, Umuahibu, Enugu-Agu, Akpana, Ezike, Enugwu and Umuosite have been submerged, just as the Migrant Primary School and over 40 hectares of rice farm comprising over 17 camps in the area have been destroyed. Some of the displaced families have taken refuge in the community’s hall.”
Following the magnitude of this year’s flood, the Anambra State government had virtually turned every attention to the affected areas. For instance, Governor Peter Obi had to cancel his scheduled visit to Mexico last week to be able to attend to the needs of the victims.
He also delegated his deputy, Mr. Emeka Sibeudu to preside over the ceremonies of this year’s Independence Day celebration while he shuttled the flood –ravaged communities in the four local government areas that were worst hit.
Obi has already directed the secretary to the state government, SSG, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, who is coordinating the evacuation and supply of relief materials to the victims, to immediately turn the vast Governor’s Lodge at Onitsha into a camp to house some of the displaced persons as the existing camps were full with some of the victims having great difficulty finding places to keep their heads.
The menacing flood has continued to ravage more communities and even sacking the victims from their present camps.
Obi has promised that the state government would continue to feed and provide materials for the victims since they were suffering from a natural disaster that was not their own making.
He said: “Few weeks ago, the governors of the South-East sent money to Haiti to help that country rebuild its infrastructure after the earthquake that took place there in 2010. If we could do it to them, we must do more for our people that elected us to serve them.”
There are no fewer than 10 camps set up for the victims in various parts of the state and the state government had ensured that they are fed three times daily.
At a camp in a primary school in Atani in Ogbaru local government area, the refugees commended the state government for coming to their assistance, but insisted that their greatest worry is what would be their fate after the flood.
Mrs. Apolonia Muofunanya who hailed from Nzam in Anambra West local government area, but was residing at Odekpe with her family said that all the crops in their farms were destroyed, while her husband’s fish pond was submerged at night with all the fish in them.
She said: “We planted cassava, yams, potato in addition to the fish ponds, but we did not generate any money from them before the flood.
We usually borrow at the beginning of the farming season and repay after selling the crops and with what had happened, I do not know what will happen. My husband has suddenly developed high blood pressure and was taken to a hospital at Okpoko for treatment and I don’t know how we are going to settle the hospital bill.
Another woman, Mrs. Comfort Ozem from Ebonyi State who had lived in Ogbaru for the past 20 years said their house was submerged and later destroyed, adding that all her domestic animals and harvested crops could not be retrieved before they were evacuated.
She was however happy that all members of her household came to the mainland safely, but expressed the fear that nothing was left for the family to rely on.
For Justina Jideani from Innoma and Agbonma Udeora from Nzam, those they borrowed money were already asking for their money, adding that the loans usually attracted 100 percent interest at the end of every farming season.
According to them, repaying such loans was usually not a problem as they always made enough money from sale of crops at the end of the farming season.
Igwe Christopher Idigo of Aguleri was short of words when the senator representing Anambra South, Dr. Andy Uba visited his domain in connection with the flood.
He said: “Everybody should join us to ask God to direct this flood to recede so that all the people displaced can go back to their homes. According to him, the impact on the refugees was already being felt by the various communities hosting them as prices of food items have suddenly gone up in all the markets.
The Monarch was also worried that at the state of the flooded building, noting that all the buildings that were affected would have to be fortified before people could pack into them again, otherwise they would collapse.
In the meantime, succour had continued to come the way of the victims. For instance, Senator Andy Uba donated about N1 million to the flood victims in various camps when he visited them, just as the senator representing Anambra North, Mrs. Margery Okadigbo came with beverages, onions, yam flour, cartons of noodles and cash.
Already, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), has delivered large quantities of food and clothing items to the victims through the Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA).
Among the relief materials brought by the South East zonal coordinator of NEMA, Mr Bandele Onimode, were 1476 bags of rice, 300 bags of garri, 100 gallons of palm oil etc 100 gallons of groundnut oil, 50 bags of granulated sugar, among other items.
Governor Obi has also assured that the victims would not be abandoned, saying that ther is need for the international community to assist the state in this time of need.