By Daud Olatunji
The recent flood in Abeokuta,the Ogun State capital, has thrown many families into mourning in the state.
Residents of the city were caught unawares penultimate Friday when a heavy rainfall pounded the city and its environs for over three hours.
No fewer than 11 people lost their lives while property worth billions of naira were lost in the wake of the torrential rainfall.
The rain started at 4:00 pm and stopped at 8:00 pm after sacking many families from their homes.
Many shops were either submerged or brought down by the flood.
Areas mostly affected by the flood include Ijaiye, Kuto, Lafenwa, Oke-Lantoro, Amolaso, Kobiti and Ilawo, among others.
The flood did not spare worship centres as the Archdiocesan Headquarters of the Celestial Church of Christ, Ijaiye, Abeokuta and a newly-constructed mosque were completely destroyed.
It was also gathered that about eight vehicles were swept away as Ogun River and Sokori River overflowed their banks and emptied their contents into some parts of the city.
Vanguard gathered that among those who lost their lives were a food vendor, Halirat Akintobi, and her two sons.
A close relative disclosed that the deceased had a shop at Ilawo, near Kobiti Central Mosque in the Abeokuta North Local Government Area, where she had gone for the day’s business with her children when the flood hit the area.
They were said to have taken shelter inside the container when the flood caused the havoc and swept away the mother and her two children identified as Abeeden and Shuaib.
Apart from the trio who had since been buried, eight other corpses, also victims of the devastating flood, were said to have been deposited at the mortuary of the General Hospital, Ijaiye, Abeokuta.
Seven days after, the impact of the incident is still being felt by members of the families who lost either their property or relatives. Many of them were still shocked and could not express their feelings.
When Vanguard visited the affected areas, it was discovered that some families were still searching for their family members by visiting the different morgues in Abeokuta.
Vanguard also observed that the people in the affected areas are thrown into panick whenever there is downpour.
Victims count losses
Some of the relatives, who spoke with Vanguard disclosed that they had searched all river banks and morgues in Abeokuta but could not see the remains of their missing relatives.
An elder brother to one of the deceased, Wahab Ajala told Vanguard that they only recovered the body of the one-year-old child of her sister. He lamented that they have not seen the corpse of her sister after searching the entire city.
Ajala said: “What I know is that what happened is the will of God. What happened is disheartening. What I know is that I went to work, but when I came back I saw a lot of people in front of my sister’s house. I was told flood swept away her container with all her belongings.
“I also learned that she and her daughter were swept away by the flood. If I continue talking, I will just say what I shouldn’t say. How do you expect me to feel after losing a sister with whom I have been close to since childhood?
“The most painful part is that we only recovered the corpse of her daughter which has been buried in a cemetery at Oke-Yidi. We have not seen Keji’s corpse.
“What we want from the government is to assist us so that it will not be a total loss for her parents. Whatever they can do to assist us in recovering the corpse of my sister, they should do,” he added.
Also speaking with Vanguard, a son of an 80-year-old woman swept away by the flood identified as Alhaji Tajudeen Babalaje said the flood took his mother and four others who were with her.
Babalaje added that they have been able to recover only one of the corpses, while they are still searching for the remains of the other four.
Babalaje said: “What has happened has happened and what was destroyed has been destroyed. It was where she sat that the flood met her. And people that were at the spot when the flood started were five and they were all taken by the flood. But we later recovered the child of one of the five victims, but the corpses of the other four have not been found up until now.’’
A relative of another victim, Rasheedat Akintobi said: “It was really a sorrowful thing for the family of Akintobi because we lost important people to us and as I am talking to you, my husband does not know what he is doing, likewise the mother of the deceased.
Ogun govt, NEMA react
Meanwhile, the Ogun State Accident and Emergency Services insisted that seven people lost their lives while three people were missing.
The state government has commiserated with affected residents.
The Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Bolaji Oyeleye, while leading the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, on assessment of areas affected, said data gathered from the assessment would be used to provide relief for those affected.
Oyeleye, who described the incident as flash flood, said the present administration’s urban renewal programme and road infrastructure in the state capital helped to mitigate the effect of the flood, adding that most of the damaged property were built along river channels.
He said the government would immediately begin enforcement of the required setbacks along the river channels, adding that channelisation of river courses would also be improved upon to forestall recurrence of the flood.
On his part, the Assistant Chief Planning Officer, NEMA, South-West Zone, Mr. Babatunde Olowokere, said his agency would collaborate with the state to provide relief materials to the victims of the flood, advising residents to refrain from dumping waste in canals and drainages.
Meanwhile, the state governor a few days after the incident, deployed cabinet members to various parts of Abeokuta, to join in the clearing of debris.
The governor had earlier embarked on an assessment tour of the affected areas, blaming the sad incident on the indiscriminate building of houses and dumping of refuse, particularly along waterways and drainages.