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Agony of a people cut off by flood!

* Dam overflows banks, bridges washed away

By Tony Edike

About 12 major communities in Nkanu area of Enugu State have been cut off due to the collapse of two bridges in Enugu South and Nkanu West Local Government Areas of the state.

The bridges are Nyaba at Amechi Awkunanaw built by the Chimaroke Nnamani administration before its exit in 2007 and the Ozalla Bridge recently built by Sullivan Chime administration as part of ongoing reconstruction of the old Enugu-Port Harcourt Road that links Ozalla with Agbogugu in Awgu Local Government Area of the state.

Community road cut into two by the erosion.

The two bridges collapsed on account of flooding from torrential rains. While one end of the Nyaba bridge was washed away by the flood, the Ozalla bridge built was completely devastated, making it impossible for the people of the area to pass through the road.

The people of the affected communities now explore alternative routes to access the state capital. Economic activities in the area has been paralyzed while students and workers of Enugu State University of Science and Technology, ESUT, who ply the two roads to the ESUT permanent site into severe hardship.

Although, the Enugu State commissioner for works, Mr Godwin Madueke, who inspected the collapsed Ozalla bridge, attributed the disaster to the collapse of an earth dam built by the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, Ituku-Ozalla, which allegedly caused the Iyoro and Ufam streams in the area to overflow their banks, the management of the teaching hospital has, however, blamed the collapse of the bridge to alleged shoddy job.

Chief Medical Director of UNTH, Dr. Anthony Mbah, who had written Governor Sullivan Chime over the incident that occurred in the hospital’s premises during the commissioner’s inspection visit, told Sunday Vanguard that the flood, which also affected the water works of the hospital, destroyed Ozalla road owing to the narrow culvert built at the location.

He said that rather than blaming the disaster on the alleged collapse of the UNTH dam, the works commissioner, whom he accused of trespassing on the hospital’s premises to inspect the water works, should take the blame for the alleged shoddy job done by the construction firm that built the culvert at a spot that required a bride.

Havoc caused by erosion at Ufam Akwa

In a letter addressed to Chime, dated October 4, 2010 the CMD complained over the manner in which the commissioner accompanied by newsmen, police and other unknown persons “forcefully gained entry into the hospital’s water works site and started taking sporadic photographs and asking unauthorized personnel questions.”

He, therefore, appealed to the governor to call the commissioner to order so as to forestall a repeat of such an incident in future.

The works commissioner had, while addressing reporters after inspecting both the collapsed dam and the bridge, said the havoc caused by the flood from the dam created a big ditch measuring 20 metres wide and seven metres deep.

Madueke noted with dismay the effect of the collapse of the bridge on the social and economic lives of the people, adding that the state government would take some measures to reconstruct the bridge and provide an alternative route to reduce the plight of the people.

The commissioner, who was accompanied on the inspection by officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), also lamented that the collapsed bridge will affect the on-going rehabilitation of the Akpasha-Ozalla-Agbogugu-Ihe-Mgbowo-Awgu-Aninri road where more than 40 kilometers of asphalting had been completed.

He said that even though the design of the UNTH dam was not available at the time of the visit, “there were some fundamental structural flaws in its construction which led to its collapse barely one year after completion.” He stated that government would soon commence discussions with the management of the hospital on how to avoid future occurrence.

Also speaking on the disaster, the principal partner of the consulting firm handling the road rehabilitation project for the state government, Mr Nelson Onyemechi, described the flood as devastating, disclosing that the company had started a study, the result of which they would submit to government on how to tackle the problem.

Collapsed part of the dam caused by erosion.

According to him, it would take an estimated N180 million to construct a double bridge to accommodate the volume of water that passes through the bridge and between N6 million to N8 million to construct a road diversion before the commencement of work.

The Executive Secretary of the Enugu State Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Josephat Offor, who was part of the inspection visit, expressed regret over the effect of the collapsed bridge on the social and economic well being of the people. He stated that officials of the agency would visit the affected villages with a view to finding out the extent of damage and how best to assist them with relief materials.

But while the government appears to have responded promptly to the Ozalla disaster to cushion its effect on the people of the area, nothing had been done on the Nyaba bridge which was severed by flood since 2007. The communities affected by the collapsed bridge had made several entreaties to the government to repair the bridge but nothing has been done on it since the past four years.

Some natives of Agbani, Obe, Amodu and Amechi communities as well as motorists plying the Agbani-Amechi-Enugu road, who spoke on the collapsed Nyaba bridge, appealed to Chime to urgedly come to the aid of the people by ordering the repair of the bridge to reduce their suffering.


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