Rivers flood: We have been abandoned – Victims cry out

Flooded D/Line area ... Picture taken hours after the flood reduces Some of the victims of Rivers State flood decry inaction by governme...

Flooded D/Line area ... Picture taken hours after the flood reduces
Some of the victims of Rivers State flood decry inaction by government and charity organisations while others relocate from the area as they react to their experience and count losses to the flood.

The Port Harcourt city witness heavy down-pour, non-stop for two consecutive days and by the time they could see the blue sky again, homes, shops and streets had been submerged. Casualty was huge and to worsen the woe, help was nowhere near. Lives were lost across the state according to reports.
 However, Don.ng confirmed only one, a middle-aged man in Port Harcourt.

One of the worst hit by the two days deluge was the Orije community of the D/Line area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital. They went to bed dry but woke up floating on water.

Though the flooding had been predicted, many residents, however, have attributed the disaster to the blockage of the Ntanwogba, the main canal in the city. The most recent, they argued, being the dredging activity by the Rivers State Government around the Eastern By-Pass.

The rain which started at about 9am on Saturday, 22nd July, 2017, fell in torrent until the next day, Sunday, July 23. The situation was worsened as it had begun in the night as residents retired to bed after the day’s labour. So, the devastation caught them off guard as most woke up to find themselves, property and valuables overwhelmed. Several household assets, property, documents and business facilities were lost. Today, they are still counting the loss and pain.

The flooding, however, ought not  to have caused this much devastation because months earlier, the Nigeria Metrological Agency, NiMET, had predicted that certain states of the country would experience heavy rainfall. NiMET had warned that the heavy rainfall would result to flooding. The Agency listed Rivers State to be one of the states to be affected.

The victims of the Rives State flooding lamented that no remedial preventative steps were taken by either the federal and state government to forestall the calamity and its aftermath.

In an interview with Don.ng, Solomon Nwachukwu, a 71-year-old man, and a resident of the area, who suffered loss of property and residency due to the rain, described the situation as said sad. “”it is quite sad that I am going through this type of pain when we have elected both State and Federal Government to oversee and administer our affairs. I watched it on the Television when it happened at Lekki area of Lagos State. We were warned of the coming of this catastrophic event in Rivers State but what did the government do to help in preventing it?

“We don’t even have Commissioner for Environment. Since yesterday till today, Sunday, the time is already 2:45pm, the government has not taken any drastic step to assist the elderly and the less privileged.”

Nwachukwu blamed a system that cares less about charity to victims of such catastrophe and the elderly.

The flooding was quite disastrous in the area as it rendered quite a number of persons living in the area homeless and devastated.

Apart from the loss of life, also lost to the flooding were electronic items, furniture, beds and food items which were seen floating on water. Snakes were washed into many homes as their initial occupants fled.

Don.ng visited the residence of a victim on Oloibiri Street reported to have been electrocuted while fleeing the flood in his bedroom.

Mr. Oriere Daye, a neighbour to the late 25-year-old victim, whose name was given as Elijah,   narrated the unfortunate incident.

Mr. Elijah electrocuted to death as a result of the flood
“Elijah(victim) was selling waterproof to earn living. He lived close to my room. As the flood entered everybody’s house and we were looking for a way to evacuate some of our properties, we heard him shouting, “Please, please, put off the light.” We rushed into the room in an attempt to disconnect the electricity but we were unable to help because the whole water in the house was full of electromagnetic energy.

“Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) hardly supplied power to the area that even led to our recent protest against them. But that day, they supplied power few minutes after the flood had overwhelmed the area.”

Business and religious activities were also encumbered by the flood as stores, shops, hospitals and churches around area were forced to vacate their buildings. Office equipment, furniture, gadgets, appliances and other items worth millions of Naira were damaged.

As at the time of compiling this report, our Reporter who visited the flood area in Orije of D/Line which comprises Oloibiri Street, Uyo Street, Afam Street, Awka Street, Warri Street, Benin Street and Abak Street said it remind one of an abandoned refugee camp.

Asthmatic patients, nursing mothers, the elderly, pregnant women and the sick, who seemed to have been the worst affected by the flooding, decried how the government, charity organisations and international donors abandoned them. Feeling forlorn when Don.ngtoured the areas, they lamented that days into their calamity, no help had come. They struggled for their survival in starvation, sleeping on smelly and wet forms, used contaminated and wet cloths.

Speaking with Don.ng, some of the residents and business owners, they called on the government and donor agencies to provide relief materials. Also they requested to be rehabilitated.
Mr Wilcox Neka, a business owner at No. 9 Abak Street, narrated his experience.
“The flood that emerged yesterday was too much. We never expected it, and in fact, we never knew it would come in this form. I own a printing press and business centre. The flood destroyed my computers, laptops, printers, 3 photocopy machines, Direct Imaging (DI) machine worth millions of Naira, more than 5 digital cameras, customers’ documents and lot of other equipment.
“It is a pity that the governments were aware of it coming but the canals were blocked so water could not flow out of the area to the sea. The rich are not experiencing what we are suffering. I worked for years to buy most of the equipment, and some through money I raised in very difficult conditions and terms. Now, how do I cope with life? I believe the government cares about us so they should do something to save us from psychological and physical trauma. For me to buy anyone of those machines is impossible now. Please government, help us.”
The plea for relief, funds and support was written all over Madam Ibitamuno as she cried profusely while making known her losses.
“I own a tailoring shop named Ibitams here on Abak Street but my problems and challenges have been made multiple by the flood. My customers’ cloths and materials are all condemned. I just used my last savings to buy these goods you see condemned by the flood. Now, how do I manage to pay house rent, shop rent and how do I take care of other bills? I appeal that the government assists us and reduce the stress in recovering our losses by providing us with financial assistance and rehabilitation.
Also, in an interview with Mr. Owunari F. J. Iboroma, a resident and laundry business owner, he also lamented on the adverse effect the preventable disaster has cost his family life and business.
“After the heavy downpour, at about 12am (midnight), the level of the flood became unbearable to us and as at that late hour, there was nothing we could do but to take our children and family members to safe areas.
"The breaking Sunday morning, the flood was even getting worse. We were only able to remove a few of our cloths. Most cloths including customers suit, native wears, I was given to wash and maintain were flooded away by the rain. I reside here at the Orije area and also do laundry business here. So, this is like Double Wahala for me. I plead on behalf of all residents of this area, that government, NGOs, NDDC(Niger Delta Development Commission) and other bodies come to our rescue. We need relief materials and fund to restart our lives.”

The residents further noted that since the recent flooding was not the first in the area, the government should have been on the alert on issues of the environment.
For Mr. Timothy, a resident of No. 15 Warri Street, D/Line, there was a similar incident in 2006.
"The truth of the matter is that we have encountered this problem before in 2006 and there was a quick response by the government of Dr. Peter Odili but this time around we didn’t have any response and I don’t know why. We are not blaming the government because even some residents of the area have poor environmental habits, but what we are expecting from the government is for them to take drastic steps in resolving such a delicate issue like this. Imagine for three days people lost their homes to and up till this hour no government personnel or agency had addressed them much more to offer the way out. It was surprising that until about 4pm the following day, there was no response by any government official. The governor’s(Governor Nyesom Wike) late visit to the Road Safety area of the Ntanwogba creek was like medicine after death.”

With above a week since the tragedy, victims had yet to receive any relief from the Rivers State Government or Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA.
On Saturday 29th July, 2017, seven days after the disastrous flood, on a visit to the affected area of the Orije community, Don.ng learnt that no action has been carried out by the government to assist the victims or avert further occurrence. Our camera captured scene of migrants relocating to their villages and other parts of the State.

A visitor who was not aware of the flood may think there was a terror attack or that an invasion took place previous night. Trucks, van and buses were used by the people to carry their properties and family members to their places of refuge.
In an effort to know the reason for the mass relocation from the area, Don.ng interviewed a resident who introduced himself as Chief Herbert Agonsi. Hear him.
“I have lived in this house for more than thirty years. We have been living in peace and harmony here. My only problem is this flood issue. Eight years ago, the same flood occurred and I took my family to hotel and this time around, it has happened again. Everyone living around here is afraid. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
“Since 22nd July till today 29th July, no government agency or representative has carried out any action to avert further occurrence of this calamity. It is better I relocate my family to the village than to stay here and pay several levies and taxes and make people believe I am doing well staying in the city yet no proper income.
“They say no place is better than home so I therefore have to go. They say no place is better than home. A resident of this area with wife and six children who is from Nasarawa State lost the entire of his properties and belonging to (the) flood. I don’t want such catastrophe to happen to me.”
Efforts to speak with the Spokesman of NEMA in Port Harcourt was not successful.

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