Victims of last Saturday’s flood disaster in Suleja and Tafa local government areas of Niger State narrate their encounters and loses from the massive flood that ravaged their communities. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE reports.
The simple oversight in the locking of their porch burglar proof last Saturday, became the reason why Mrs Lilian Aderorho, an indigene of Owan-east local government of Edo State is alive to narrate her gory encounter with last Sunday’s devastating flood that has taken a toll of about 14 lives in Chechenya, Angwan Alhaji Sule suburbs of Suleja and Gadan Hayi area of Gauraka both in Suleja and Tafa local government areas of Niger State.
Besides those who are still missing, dozens of houses were destroyed with 18 homes completely washed away by the flood in one area alone. Some died trying save trapped families.
“When we all stood on our dining table after the flood had tossed almost everything in the house, we realised that we have no chance of getting out of the house, our doors were locked by the force of the water. As the water rose above our chest, we held each other, my six children and I and said to ourselves in tears: the moment has come for us to die, let us thank God for the opportunity to live,” Mrs Aderorho told our correspondent.
The about-to-drown family of seven, suddenly heard a voice from outside-it was a neighbour who had received a distress call from another neighbour, and decided to take the risk of rescuing the trapped Aderorho family.
Muda Yekini, now seen by many as a hero, against all warnings, crawled up a fence by leveraging on a submerged car that was wedged by the wall of the home of Mrs Aderorho, and landed on another car in the compound.
According to Muda: “After climbing the fence, I quickly used the submerged car to hang on to the burglar proof and thank God it was not locked. I then struggled against the current of the flood and opened the house door and help them out one by one,” Yekini said.
Narrating further, the Edo State-born mother of six whose husband was in Lagos in the night of the disaster, said the force of the water scared one of her daughters to freeze off. “I had no choice than to drag myself back to room and grabbed her. I was determined to save her and die. I got myself injured but in the end I got my daughter out before it became worse.”
By 2am in the morning and in pitch darkness, a flooded environment no doubt is a scary for several families in Suleja and Tafa who had played down the early warnings of the flood.
“We took the rain as the normal downpour we experience here, but this time, the flood came with a rage never seen in this area for generations. I stood up at about 1:30 am when the rains became very heavy. I woke my children and we decided to block all the floor drains.
“Trouble started when we were about to go back to bed and suddenly, we heard a strange sound and everywhere was flooded and in minutes our properties were floating about in water. We started shouting and I quickly made calls before my phone lost power”, Aderorho said.
While standing on the table, 23-year-old, Eugene Aderorho, a graduate of electrical and electronics engineering, told our correspondent that even when the flood had passed his chest he was still hopeful for a miracle.
“First, I was crying but was still hopeful for a miracle. I thought for a moment that I might be seeing the last set of people in this world. The trauma will take time to go away,” he said.
The torrential down pour that hit Suleja and Tafa local governments for 10 hours came with a flood at the dead of the night, when several of the residents were sleeping and had taken the rains as normal.
But a few residents had been alerted of an impending flood that would be heading down from the Tafa LGA, but several people in the Suleja axis ignored the call to relocate from their homes.
The raging flood wreaked havoc through the communities like a war machine, washing away houses, sinking homes, pulling down trees on its part. Even the high density galvanized water pipes laid by the Niger State Water Board could not be spared.
Usman Musa, a trader, had little time to evacuate his family. After moving his wife and children out of the house, his return to pick a few valuables nearly cost him his life.
“When I came to the house to pick a few items, the wall of my house collapsed and the surge of flood swept me off. I found a tree branch and clung onto it. After a few minutes, along with other people hanging on the tree, the flood uprooted the tree and we were all swept away. I managed to grab another three and climbed to safety but I cannot say exactly what happened to others,” Musa said.
A traumatised resident of the affected area, Mr Jude Akalawu, who hails from Ngor Okpala LGA of Imo State, had rescued and provided shelter to several families affected. But no sooner had the people settled in his home, than the flood came calling.
“I just went out to get tea item for my guests in the morning and on my way home, my wife screamed that our fence had caved in and within minutes, the whole house was flooded. The victims that took shelter in my house had to flee to higher grounds,” Akalawu said.
Also narrating a death scenario, Kenny Michael who hails from Ekiti State, told our correspondent that he was the first to notice the rising water.
“When I realised the rising water through my window, it was too late to open my door, I had to escape through the window to rescue my parents who were trapped in the other flat. We had no time to pick anything than to run for our lives to a high ground,” he said.
He further said that after the rain stopped, he saw floating bodies in the flood and because the current was still high, “all we could do was to watch in grief as bodies floated away.”
For Usman Bala Audi, who hails from Lafia in Nasarawa State, being able to escape with his family through the fence, was the biggest miracle of his life. Though his house survived the flood but his brother’s house sank into the ground.
Our correspondent observed that only the tiles on the floor of what used to be Audi’s brother’s house indicated that once, a building stood on that site. “We are grateful, no life was lost. We got out before the flood became worst”, he said.
How I lost two wives and six children to the flood-Abubakar
Soaked in grief, 39-year-old carpenter and tea seller, Saidu Abubakar, who only moved into his house a year ago has his life shattered as the flood claimed his two wives and six children. He is considered the biggest casualty of last Saturday’s flood disaster in Suleja.
The entire community is in shock over the incident and have been trying to comprehend how it happened to the Zamfara State-born trader.
Speaking to our correspondent in tears, Abubakar said his deceased wives and children only came to Suleja a year ago to settle with him after securing an apartment for them.
One of the deceased children was just 16-days-old. An eye witness told our correspondent that the mother of the baby cried and begged other residents to help save the baby and she held her up above water as they were being swept away.
“It was a gory sight that night, we cried and cried as the mother and baby drowned in our very eyes, we were helpless,” an eye witness said.
Abubakar, who only few days ago was discharged from hospital, further narrated that he thought the flood was not going to rise too high.
“I noticed the rising water at about 1:30 am and I thought the water level will not rise again after the rains briefly stopped. But minutes later, the rain came back and within 10 minutes, the whole area was flooded giving no room for escape.
“I carried two my children while others were crying and asking me, ‘Baba what is happening to us, please help us.’ I tried to assure them that I will take them to safety. We were shouting and calling for help and suddenly the force of the water knocked the entire house down and we were swept into the roaring flood.
“My first wife had a baby strapped to her back and carried another one in the hand and my new wife also carried her new born baby with another one too. Most of the people that came first couldn’t venture into the water as the current was too high.
“After a minute in the flood, my body hit a tree and I was able to grab it and screamed before I was rescued by other residents. I looked round to see if I could find any of my family members but found no one. I am really saddened by what happened to my family. I have been thinking of my children and wives since that morning,” Abubakar lamented.
What was supposedly Abubakar’s home, is now an empty ground with no evidence of any structure as the flood swept everything to the foundation of the house.
As at the time our correspondent visited the area, only two bodies of Abubakar’s family members have been found and buried. Abubakar is currently being sheltered and supported by well-wishers and religious bodies within Suleja.
Alleged Dam Opening Dispelled Some residents had alleged that the cause of the flood was the alleged opening of a dam in an unspecified area. They alleged that the dam was about to be destroyed by high volume of water when its operators opened it to save it from collapsing.
But the dam opening rumour has been dispelled by stakeholders within the affected communities, putting the blame on people living along flood plains.
Some of the stakeholders told our correspondent that, the damage would have been minimal if people did not build homes close to flood plains.
Abubakar Sadiq, a resident of the affected area said some residents went too close to water channels, apparently due to the high cost of buying land in Suleja upland.
Our correspondent observed that, several of the residents have been living at the mercy of flood for years. The natural water ways have lots of curves and meanders, some of the homes were directly on flood right of way. With the stream on one side and huge drainages on the other side some of the affected homes were at the centre of flood plains.
When the flood came, only a few of the houses on its way stood a chance of standing their ground. Residents of Suleja and Tafa also blamed development authorities for not stamping their powers on the reckless building pattern on water ways.
No relief material 72 hours after disaster
Eight days after the flood in Suleja and Tafa local government communities, nothing has come the way of the affected victims by way of relief materials from any of the tiers of the government. They also lamented that the few government officials that visited the area kept their distance from them.
However, the federal government has approved the sum of N1.6 billion for 16 states as immediate cushion for victims of floods. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo announced the amount.
Meanwhile, the Senate has urged the federal government to release funds to Niger State government for the immediate construction of drainage systems in Suleja, Tafa and other flood-prone areas of the state.
It said that it was an emergency intervention measure on the flood which devastated the areas and claimed lives and properties.