Osun flood disaster: The downpour of pains and sorrow foretold

Despite the prediction of heavy rainfall and the warnings given to some states, including Osun State, the rain that fell on Tuesday, September 13, 2016, left sorrow,  pains and losses in its trail for some residents of Osogbo, where floods ravaged some communities.

The biggest loss was recorded by the Olabode family, who lost their breadwinner, a man of about 55 years of age, to the disaster. The late Mr. Ebenezer Olabode, who was an elder in his church, did not know that his trip within the city was going to be his last when he set out in his Nissan Primera car.

Olabode was returning home in the rain the day after the Eid el-Kabir in Oke Onitea area. The place was flooded but he managed to continue until he met his untimely death. There were conflicting reports of how he swept away by the flood. While some residents of the area claimed that he was stopped and warned not to drive through the flood but that he did not heed their warning, others said he pulled out from the back of other vehicles in the queue at the flooded section and drove through the flood without knowing that death was lurking in the corner.

One of the residents of the area, who said he was at the scene of the disaster, Taye Adejare, said the deceased was seen struggling with the car as the flood tossed it off the road.

He said the car was swept completely into the gutter within one minute and the lone occupant, Olabode, was nowhere to be found by the time a team of rescuers got to the car.

He said the door of the car was found opened, but Olabode had been swept away. Policemen, firefighters and officials of the disaster management team of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, as well as local divers, searched for him, but to no avail.  The search took the team about six hours and went into the night.

It was almost certain that Olabode had gone with the flood, but family members were still hoping against hope and praying that he would be found alive and well. The search party continued very early the following morning and decided to walk through the river course from Oke Onitea, combing every spot while searching for the man under the filth and inside the gutter.

Alas, the lifeless body of the man, who was alive some hours back, was found at the Government Reservation Area where it was taken to by the flood.

The remains were immediately taken to the morgue and the news spread to his family who had been praying that their breadwinner would be brought back home alive and well.

Olabode, it was gathered, loved to drive his wife to work every day, but the  luxury of being chauffeur-driven to work by a caring husband which the widow had enjoyed till last Friday came to an abrupt end with the sudden death of her husband.

Our correspondent gathered that the widow, who works at the Federal Ministry of Works, Osogbo, recently turned 50.

Pastor Paul Usman, who spoke on behalf of the family of the deceased, described him as a God-fearing man and said the incident was an unfortunate one. He said Olabode left the world too soon, adding that his death was a huge loss to his family, friends and his church.

Usman, however commended the police and the NSCDC officials for their efforts towards the recovery of the remains of the victim. He said they worked tirelessly until the body was recovered.

He said it was better to prevent disasters, including the natural ones, than to manage them, saying with prevention, the loss of lives and property recorded as a result of the flood would have been averted.

While members of the immediate family of  Olabode are mourning the departure of their beloved one, scores of residents of Osogbo are also counting their losses as a result of the rampaging floods which sacked some homes and destroyed goods and property worth several millions of naira,

Some roads could be mistaken for rivers where canoes and boats could sail easily due to the level of flood which covered them. Some vehicles have been completely submerged.

The popular Christ Apostolic Church, Oke Igbala District Headquarters, Gbonmi area, is of the worst hit. The nearby stream overflowed and the church was literally a floating house when the rain subsided. Gbonmi literally means “to bail water” and worshippers at the church had been bailing out water since the heavy rain fell nonstop.

A former governor of the state was reported to have said jocularly during a television programme that residents of the area should either be ready to bail water out of their houses continuously or relocate from the area since they met the water there.

Apart from the roof and the ceiling fans of the church which were not submerged, nothing was spared by the raging floods which sacked worshippers from holding any service since the Tuesday rain.

A member of the church, who was one of those scooping out water from the sanctuary, said nothing could prevent them from holding their Sunday service, saying if the church was submerged by flood, worshippers would use the playground of the CAC Primary School nearby for their service.

The pastor of the church, Dayo Oluwamakin, while speaking to our correspondent on Thursday, said the church was at the receiving end of the indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents of the area.

Oluwamakin said passersby and some motorists were the ones always dumping their waste inside the river.

While residents could not be spared of blame in the disaster due to their indiscriminate dumping of waste, the Osun State Government also could not be absolved of blame because the state government left what it supposed to have done.

The river was completely blocked by plants coupled with bottles and tons of refuse dumped continually by residents, thus aiding the disaster.

Although there was no loss of life at the church, the situation could have been worse if the flooding had occurred at night during vigil. The church members said they had reasons to be grateful to God for not allowing that to happen.  The perimeter fence of the church was pulled down by the flood before the water took over its entire premises and the auditorium.

The pastor said, “I came here last year and I was told that this kind of flood happens every year. The church observed the setback as you can see, but the indiscriminate dumpling of refuse by passersby is a big problem.

“The gardener in our church clears the drains every three days, but before daybreak, the drainage would be full of refuse again. Those passing through the area stop and dump their refuse just anywhere. Some motorists would park on the bridge, open their booths and empty refuse inside the river. Those are the problems.

“But the solution is that there should be dredging of the river. You can see that the river is overgrown with grass and except this is cleared, the water won’t be able to flow. The governor came and he assured us that the river would be cleared of the debris,”

The rains also brought pains and discomfort to the residents of Rasco area when the flood visited food canteens, relaxation spots and houses along the river bank.

Our correspondent observed that some residents whose property were destroyed by the flood were still trying to salvage some of them. Books, home appliances and mattresses of different shapes and sizes, including those that had seen better days, were spread outside to get dry.

One of the residents of the area, Moses Ajilore, while speaking to our correspondent appealed to the state government to raise the height of the Rasco Bridge and dredge the river in order to prevent a future occurrence of the disaster.

Residents of Kajola area and Testing Ground were also affected by the floods which destroyed property locked in shops.

One of the shop owners whose goods were destroyed, Chinedu Chukwu, said he lost electronics worth millions of naira to the flood. Chukwu said all of his goods were soaked while some were swept away by the flood which ravaged his shop and other shops around the place.

Some elderly women selling foodstuffs were in tears while narrating how the flood swept away their food stuffs. One of them, Mrs. Awawu Ogunrinde, said she and others sellers were away for the Eid el-Kabir celebration when the rains started.

Ogunrinde said, “We are in serious debt now. All the rice, yam flour, semovita and beans were swept away by the flood. I took loan from a microfinance bank just like my colleagues to buy the foodstuff and they have been swept away now. I don’t know how I will repay the loan.”

A fashion designer, Ife Ogundijo, estimated her loss to be around N3m, saying clothes and sewing machines as well as generators were destroyed while some of them were swept away.

Some residents were left stranded at Fiwasaye area as the flood submerged the bridge, thus blocking the means of getting to their homes. They were at the spot until late in the night when the water level went down and they waded through the flood to get home.

One of the dramatic scenes was where a woman with her infant strapped to her back was herself carried on the back by one of the rescuers to wade through the flooded area.

The Commandant of the NSCDC in Osun State, Mr. Philips Ayodele, who went round the town with officials from the Disaster Management Unit of the agency, condoled  with the family of the deceased and sympathised with those whose properties were destroyed.

The NSCDC boss, however, said residents of the town ought to have taken preventive measures since it was predicted that Osun State would experience heavy rainfall which might result into flooding. Ayodele also advised residents against indiscriminate dumping of refuse, saying this was one of the ways a future occurrence of the disaster could be prevented.

Governor Rauf Aregbesola during his visit to some of the affected areas said his administration spent so much on dredging the major waterways identified as flood-prone to prevent this type of disaster.

While sympathising with the victims, he promised that the state government  would continue to clear the waterways to ensure free flow of water.

Aregbesola said, “We have been very much committed to ensuring the absence of this kind of calamity. Since the advent of the administration, we have been regularly desilting the waterways on an annual basis.”

He said his government was making plans to ensure the waterways were dredged after the flood alert, but it did not expect the flood to be so devastating. He also appealed to the people of the state to stop indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the gutters and drains as well as in waterways, saying this act was a major factor that led to the disaster.

Meanwhile, the indiscriminate dumping of refuse by some residents of Osogbo, which was a contributory factor of the flood disaster, was also foretold by the Association of Waste Managers in the state, but nothing was done to arrest it.

They had said in July 2016 that the breakdown of the waste disposal trucks given to waste managers in Osun State had threatened the smooth implementation of environmental and beautification programme introduced in the state by the Aregbesola administration.

They advised the governor to do everything to ensure that the programme tagged “O’Clean” was not allowed to collapse. He was also urged to rejuvenate the programme and ensure that residents were not allowed to dump their wastes indiscriminately any longer.

The waste managers also advised the state government to disengage from waste collection and release the responsibility to private waste collectors. They told the government to employ more environmental health officers to complement the efforts of the road marshals in enforcing  compliance with government directive against indiscriminate dumping of refuse.

They appealed to the state government to establish two more dump sites at the Ilesa Garage axis and Dagbolu, while stressing that there must be at least a dump site in each of the local government areas in the state to make refuse dumping easier for the operators.

The incident has put fear in the minds of people of the state, especially those living at flood prone areas because heavy rains have just started and this is not expected to stop soon. To avert a repeat of the disaster, residents are calling on the state government to immediately begin the dredging  of the rivers and streams that are already blocked.

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Omotimehin Nelson is a chief editor of mystatenews.com. He is a chairman of nestec group who powered the news media mystatenews.com. He studied computer science in Yaba college of Technology. He is a passionate blogger, an SEO expert.

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