By Francis Onyeukwu, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Combined team of experts from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), visited coastal communities in Anambra recently to sensitise them on impending flooding in the area this year.
The tour code named: “Early Warning Interactive Sensitisation Meeting for Flood Prone Local Areas,’’ was aimed at enlightening residents of the coastal communities of the impending flooding, predicted to hit more than 12 states, including Anambra.
The visit was as a result of predictions by the Nigeria Metrological Agency (NIMET) and National Hydrological Service Agency (NASA).
It was predicted that heavy rainfalls would be recorded from August ending to September, that would result to the River Niger overflowing its banks, which would eventually lead to flooding of some coastal communities.
The officials visited Ayamelum, Awka North, Anambra East, Anambra West, Ogbaru and Ihiala, where they sensitised leaders of these areas and urged the particulars to transmit what they were taught to their people.
According to them, the purpose of the sensitisation was to avert any death during the flooding.
Chief Paul Odenigbo, Executive Secretary of SEMA, Anambra, recalled that 12 persons lost their lives during the 2018 flooding in Ogbaru Local Government Area.
Odenigbo charged the participants drawn from various coastal communities to ensure they listen attentively and transmit what they were told to their subjects.
Mr Emeka Obinwa, the Executive Assistant to Gov. Willie Obiano on SEMA (Media) who spoke, said that government had mapped out 28 holding centres at Omor Health Centre, Ifite Ogwari Health Centre, Skills Acquisition Centre, Ifite Ogwari, Health Centre, Igbakwu and Health Centre Umueje in Ayamelum.
Other centres are: Fr. Joseph’s Memorial School, Aguleri; Premier Primary School, Umueri; General Hospital, Umueri; St. Augustine Umuoba; Council Secretariat, Otuocha and Unity Primary School, Umuoba.
He said that similar holding centres were sited at Agueke Primary School, Ugbenu, Central School, Ugbenu and Central School, Oba Ofemmili, in Awka North, among others, for would be victims to provide them succour while the disaster lasted.
The SEMA official told participants to assemble their vital documents now and relocate to the holding centres for safety once they notice the flooding.
He said that although the centres might not be the best, but that government set them up as temporary places to ensure that those to be affected get succour.
Obinwa assured that government would provide basic needs at the centres to ensure that displaced persons were taken care of.
Mr Fred Anusim, the Coordinator NEMA, South-East Zone, said there was need for the 21 local government areas in Anambra to set up Local Emergency Management Committees to fast track action on disaster management.
He said the committee would complement the roles of SEMA and NEMA in local areas thereby ensuring prompt response to disasters.
Anusim warned parents against allowing their children to play in the rain, especially in flood prone areas.
“This warning is imperative, especially now that children were on holidays and usually tempted to play in flood waters during the rains.
“Each time it rains and there is flooding, especially in the coastal communities, reptiles move with the flood and you might be attacked if you move in these waters”, he said.
Mr Kennedy Ekeh, another official of NEMA in a lecture entitled: “Flooding in Anambra; Causes, Impact, and Management,” said various factors made Anambra vulnerable to flooding.
Ekeh explained that floods are natural occurrences where an area that is hitherto normal suddenly becomes submerged in water.
He said flood disaster results from two broad causes: natural phenomena and human factors.
According to him, natural occurrence is due to topography and excessive rainfalls, while human factors, include encroachment on river beds, embankment failures, insufficient storm water drain, narrow streets, blockage of drainages and waterways, among others.
Ekeh said that flooding could lead to loss of lives and property, pollution of environment, disruption of urban services, loss of agricultural products and other socio-economic vulnerabilities, among others.
He stressed the need to constantly watch the rising river levels and relocate to safety to avoid being victims of flooding.
Ekeh said once the coastal areas got wet with intense rain, people should pack their essential documents in portable bags and relocate to safety.
Mr Arinzechukwu Awogu, Transition Committee Chairman, Ogbaru Local Government Area, who spoke, pleaded with the Federal Government to dredge the River Niger as permanent solution to perennial flooding.
Awogu said that 16 communities in the council area, lived on the bank of River Niger.
He said that since the 2012 devastating flooding, the River Niger had continued to overflow its bank every rainy season.
“We gathered that this regular flooding resulting from the overflow of River Niger will continue because of excess sand in the river which requires dredging.
“Since the reason for the yearly flooding has been identified, we appeal to the Federal Government to dredge the River Niger in order to put an end to the problem,” he said.
Awogu said that 12 persons lost their lives due to 2018 flooding in the area and commended SEMA and NEMA teams for the sensitisation visit.
Chief Anthony Achebe, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Fire, Safety and Utilities, reiterated that flooding in the coastal areas would persist except the River Niger was dredged.
Achebe urged farmers to always seek information on weather from SEMA and other relevant agencies to avoid huge losses to flood.
Mr Anthony Nnaama and Chief Kenneth Onyeabor, the Presidents-General of Umumbo and Omor communities, respectively, commended SEMA and NEMA for the visit.
Nnaama said that it would be appreciated if government would give farmers early information ahead of the planting season. “Last year we were affected by flooding and this year our farm is already flooded,” he said.
Other speakers at the event appealed to governments at all levels to find a lasting solution to recurrent flooding in Nigeria.
“We gathered that River Niger overflowing its bank is the cause of the problem, so let government find lasting solution to the problem by dredging the River Niger,” they pleaded.(NANFeatures)