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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Nigerians rue experience as flood wreaks havoc in central state

By Olatunji Saliu ABUJA (Xinhua) -- A somber mood enveloped Suleja town located in a busy suburb in Nigeria’s central state of Niger on Monday, following a devastating flood which wreaked havoc in the area on Sunday.

Sorrowful tears and gnashing of teeth freely expressed the feeling of the local residents as they rued the loss of lives and property to the disaster.

“I’ve lost it all, everything that I labored for,” thundered a 61-year-old retired civil servant.

The embittered sexagenarian told Xinhua the house he built after retirement last year, using his life savings, had collapsed as the flood swept through the area.

“I cannot find my grandchild, too,” he said amid tears.

Four lifeless bodies had been recovered since Sunday, according to eyewitnesses. But a local official said only one has been confirmed dead by the local district’s emergency office.

More than 10 bodies were still missing as of the time of filing this report, while an injured victim was receiving treatment at a local health facility.

Over 100 houses were engulfed by the flood and a dozen houses were washed away with household effects floating in the water.

The flood affected mostly people who built their houses along the riverbank in the area.

The flood, occasioned by torrential rainfall for many hours on Sunday, also swept away a family of eight - including two wives and six children of a local trader, local residents said.

Many residents and traders fled their homes and shops for safety as the flood sacked the entire area.

In an interface with local district officials on Monday, the residents, with streams of tears flowing down their cheeks, rued the tragedy that had befallen them. The flood had swallowed up most of their houses.

Ironically, those who counted themselves as “lucky ones” could only gather the remnants of their property.

For most of the victims, there’s no hope in sight about where next to go.

Simon Ogbu, a 73-year-old victim of the flood, said his only hope was in the government.

“My entire house and many around me here are totally collapsed. There is nothing we can do.

“We are still awaiting assistance from the government,” the septuagenarian said.

Head of Suleja local district Abdullahi Maje told Xinhua the government was still assessing the extent of the damage so far caused by the flood.

“As the head of the local government, I will go back and sit down with my council members to see where we can render assistance to the community,” Maje added.

An official of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency told Xinhua the flooding was caused by the release of water from a nearby dam.

According to the source, this was done to avert a more severe tragedy.

Flooding is a common environmental problem in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

Six weeks ago, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency had issued a flood alert in Lagos, other coastal cities and some states across the West African country.

Lagos, the nation’s economic hub, has been battling with flooding since last week as a result of torrential rainfall.

Last Saturday, motorists spent up to six hours to escape the water-logged roads and expressway in the highbrow Victoria Island axis of the city.

The heavy floods took over some homes and offices, forcing some residents and workers to unceremoniously vacate their premises.

Local police had temporarily closed some of the roads to human and vehicular movement, due to the threat of flood.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on Monday said the government was taking immediate steps to find a holistic solution to the problem of flooding in the city.

In 2012, more than 363 people were killed and over 2.1 million others were displaced by floods across Nigeria.

A total of 30 out of the country’s 36 states experienced heavy flooding and an estimated 7 million people were, in total, affected that year, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

The 2012 floods were termed as the worst in the country in more than 40 years. 

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