By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
IT was a pathetic situation, last Wednesday, as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa undertook a tour of some communities submerged by flood in Oshimili South local government area of Delta State. He was at Amakom community but could not venture to the neighboring Oko-Anala and Oko-Ogbele communities because the road was submerged.
He also visited one of the six IDPs camps set up by his administration.
Most of the affected communities in the state are in Aniocha South, Bomadi, Burutu, Warri South, Warri North, Warri South West, Patani, Ughelli South and Isoko North, Isoko South, Udu, Okpe, Oshimili South, Oshimili North, Ndokwa East and Ndokwa West local government areas.
Okowa, who spoke to reporters on his experience after visiting Amakom community, said: “We could not access Oko-Anala because the entire road has been taken up by water, and I am told that many of the people have moved. I have just directed that officials should go through the Onitsha end to find out if the people are safe?
“Those in Oko-Ogbele have also moved out of there because that place is completely submerged. I know that people have gone to Udu, and many places in Isoko South, Aviara, Uzere, Emede and some parts of Isoko North local government area”.
Blind man, 11-year-old boy, others perish
As at Thursday, no fewer than four persons, including a blind man in his sixties and an 11-year-old boy, have been reportedly killed at Powerline area of the state capital, Asaba, and Okpai in Ndokwa East local government area by flood which submerged several communities and rendered thousands of persons homeless.
Touched by the plight of the victims, Okowa ordered the state Flood Management Committee to move into impacted communities and evacuate residents to IDP camps.
“This is an emergency situation. Move buses to the communities, use speed boats where necessary, comb all the impacted communities to take any of our persons remaining in those communities to the IDP camps”, he said.
“From what we have heard, the flood water is rising, you can see that apart from Oko Amakom, other communities have been submerged; it is an unfortunate situation. Thank God we embarked on early awareness campaign and our people listened”.
At the palace of the Okaku of Oko Amakom, HRM Nwanodi Nwanmou, the governor commended the community for agreeing to move to the IDPs camps, observing that though the people had lost their agricultural produce as a result of the flood, his administration would ameliorate their sufferings.
“With the situation of things, it is very important that we save lives. We have deployed man and resources to impacted communities and those communities that were affected by the flood of 2012, but are yet to be affected by this flood, we have to be proactive in this emergency situation”.
Secretary of Powerline community in Asaba, Mr. Emma Ekube, said a blind man died after the wooden boat he and others were trying to escape in capsized in flood water, but two of the victim’s children survived.
Okowa assured that government would make life comfortable for the victims in the various IDP camps.
The governor, who inspected facilities at the Ogbe-Afor IDP camp, said machinery had been put in place to monitor the victims wherever they might choose to stay, but he frowned at the reluctance of some victims to move out of their submerged homes.
Regarding Tsekelewu community, where Primary School pupils sacked by flood wept openly, calling on the state government to rebuild their schools, he said: “I have just directed officials to send relief materials to them.
“But because they are used to water, they do not want to leave. They have been able to improvise a high point where they are staying. What they need actually is food to enable them survive through this period”.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah, who spoke to newsmen after the State Executive Council meeting in Asaba, disclosed that the Flood Management Committee, headed by the Commissioner for Bureau for Special Duties, with Commissioners for Health, Environment, Information, Local Government Affairs, Women Affairs, Community and Social Development and the Chairmen of about 16 Local Government Areas identified to be affected by the flood as members, would handle the welfare of displaced persons.
Ukah listed the six IDP camps housing victims of the floods to include those located at Ogbe-Afor Primary School, Asaba, Oshimili South; Ewulu Grammar School, Ewulu, Aniocha South; and Utagba-Ogbe Technical College Kwale, Ndokwa West.
Others are located in Emede Grammar School, Emede, Isoko South; Omorka Primary School, Illah, Oshimili North, and Alaka Grammar School, Ozoro, Isoko North.
The commissioner said that the people of Tuomo in Burutu and Tsekelewu in Warri North had been relocated to higher ground and relief materials sent to them.
Osinbajo in Delta
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo flew to Asaba on a visit to the state and Anambra for on- the -spot assessment.
Osinbajo, who inspected some affected communities, expressed satisfaction with the measures taken by the Okowa administration to reduce the effect of the flood on the people.
Speaking at the IDP camp in Asaba, the VP said, “I am very touched seeing these persons who are affected by flood. I know how disruptive it is for those who are affected.
“The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), in the next 24 hours, will send relief materials to the state”.
He disclosed that following the effect of the flood, the Federal Government had designated Delta as National Disaster Zone with three other states.
According to him, the Federal Government will not only contribute to the welfare of the flood victims while they are at the holding camps, it would work to properly resettle them in their communities after the flood must have receded.
Our prayers, by Okowa
Okowa, who accompanied the Vice President on visits to impacted communities, observed that the state was bracing up for more impact of the flood as water in the affected states would pass through Delta to empty into the Atlantic Ocean.
He stated: “Though we are aware that property, farm produce have been destroyed, our major concern is to save life. We are aware that the coming days may be more challenging as the flood is expected to rise, but our people are prepared to ensure that Deltans are not left at the impacted communities; we are praying that the flood recedes fast for our people to return to their normal life.”
What Delta did after 2012 flood
After the devastating 2012 flood, the state government under former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan inaugurated a Flood Committee, headed by a former Vice Chancellor of Delta State University, Abraka, which presented a technical report to government, January 28, 2013.
Executive summary of the report showed that 231 communities were affected by the flood, while farm lands and poultry farms, numbering over 500,000, were displaced and wiped out.
In terms of costs, the fish farms destroyed totalled N3.1 billion and the final figures were yet to be arrived at, especially, as most of the estimates were for the period of the flooding season.
It estimated that some 831 block houses were affected, 599 houses belonging to the people on the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder suffered while some 433 market stalls were damaged.
According to the report, the total impact of the flood in Delta came to N9.6 billion.
Long- term recommendations included the cleaning and fumigation of affected communities and homes, provision of clean water and sanitation across the state, and dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue.
The report advised against the use of the flood plains for both agricultural production and residential buildings in the future to avoid what happened in 2012 flooding disaster.
It said it was impossible to stop flooding in any part of the world but accurate predictions could help people relocate from the flood-prone areas of the state.
Findings by Sunday Vanguard showed that the state government carried out cleaning and fumigation in some affected communities, but there is no evidence of clean water and substantial adherence sanitation across the state.
It was not clear whether Rivers Niger and Benue were dredged and if the Federal Government liaised with other countries for the purpose, but there was early warning from relevant agency about the flood, but, as usual, not many paid heed to it until havoc was wreaked.