By PETER DURU, MAKURDI
From Otukpo to Apa and Makurdi, it is the same story of flood devastation. Benue State has been hit by a devastating flood never witnessed in the history of the state.
Presently, those affected are bitterly counting their losses. This is so because millions had been rendered homeless while many have lost valuables they acquired through thick and thin after toiling for hours, days, weeks and years.
This occurred when some victims of the devastation were breathing a sigh of relief following a lull in rain falls. So, they were caught napping as the unprecedented surge from the River Benue submerged one quarter of Makurdi, the state capital, leaving no fewer than one million persons homeless.
The surge which started building up last Sunday night has at the last count submerged close to 10,000 living houses, business places, huts and farmlands.
Worst hit by the devastation were residences and houses near the bank of River Benue and most structures within five kilometres radius of the River.
Some of the communities in the town badly hit by the rising flood water that has swept away property and house hold items worth billions of Naira include Kucha Otebe, Gyado Villa, brick factories in Wadata and New Garage, the abattoir along the new Makurdi bridge, North bank and the highbrow Judges Quarters area of the town where Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume and Minister of State, Trade and Investment, Dr. Samuel Ortom, have their residential houses.
Also threatened by the steady rise in water levels is the main campus of the Benue State University and the newly constructed Benue University Teaching Hospital and the Regional Headquarters of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, all in Makurdi.
The devastation has also sacked majority of the students of the state owned Benue State University who are moving out in droves in makeshift canoes after losing most of their books and household items to the flood.
One of the victims of the flood and a final year student of Benue State University, Mr. John Itodo , told Vanguard Metro, VM, that the flood took them unawares.
He said, as he tried to fight back tears: “Two days ago we noticed a sudden rise in water levels along the bank of River Benue but we felt it was normal given the torrential rains in the last few days. But to our surprise we woke up this morning to discover that our houses have been completely submerged by water flowing from the river.
“Some of us have been able to rescue few of our belongings from the flood but many lost virtually everything; this is the first time we are witnessing this type of disaster in this part of the country”.
Recounting his loss, a father of four, Mr. Romeo Dajoh, said he lost several of his household items but thanked God that he was able to excape with his family alive.
While lamenting the insensitivity of the government to their plight he said: “The Governor was here yesterday(Monday) and said they will relocate all the victims to a school but up till now no government official has visited this place after the Governor left.
“The problem in this country is that our leaders will go on air to make pronouncements but at the end of the day such promises are never fulfilled. It is saddening I must confess”.
On her part, Mrs. Theresa Oche who claimed she owns one of the flooded houses urged the state government and public spirited individuals to come to their aid as they lacked the capacity and wherewithal to handle the situation.
The Makurdi flood came on the heels of similar flood that sacked no fewer than seven communities, including over 236 residential houses, farmlands and property worth millions of Naira which were destroyed by flood in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State following six hours of torrential rain.
Communities and villages affected by the devastation include Otukpo-Icho, Otukpo-Nobi, Upu, Emichi, Amla, Odudaje and Okpomaju, while no fewer than 150,000 inhabitants of the communities have also been rendered homeless.
VM gathered from some of the affected persons that the flood also swept away the only bridge linking residents of Odudaje, Okpomaju, Amla and Emichi to the Otukpo main market and the only hospital at Otukpo-Icho.
The severe flooding which has crippled business and farming activities in the affected communities also swept away farm yields preserved in various locally constructed storage facilities in the affected communities.
The devastation has left the affected without food or potable water in places where they sought safe haven.
The district head of Otukpo district, Och’Otukpo Odu, Chief John Eimonye who spoke to newsmen on phone expressed worry over the development which he said has rendered thousands of residents homeless.
The paramount ruler who disclosed that no casualty has been recorded in the disaster, however, expressed satisfaction with the prompt response of officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, whom he said arrived the affected communities to assess the level of damage.
Most of the victims, he said are presently taking refuge in neighbouring villages where the flood did not wreak much havoc.
Chief Eimonye further enjoined health personnel in the state to urgently visit the camp of the displaced person in order to check an outbreak of diseases.
Aside Otukpo local government, the home town of the Senate President, Senator David Mark, Apa Local Government Area was not also spared by the ravaging Benue flood. VM gathered that the Ocheko bridge linking the people of Ojecho Idiku in Apa local government area of Benue State to the rest of the world has been swept away by flood occasioned by over seven hours of torrential rains which caused River Ocheko to overflow its banks and pulling down the bridge and any tree on its way.
The development has caused an untold hardship on the people of the community who have now resorted to swimming across the river to get to other parts of the local government Headquarters and other towns for their daily activities.
Lamenting the unfortunate incident, head of the community, Mr. Sunday Achigili, decried the suffering of the people of the area.
He pleaded with the state government, NEMA and other donor organisations to come to the aid of his people
Meanwhile the state Director of Environment at the Ministry of Water Resources and Environment, Mr. Daniel Iorshahea, has warned residents living within the banks of River Benue and other adjoining communities to immediately vacate their abode to avoid being swept away by the fast increasing water levels of the rivers across the state.