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How Gentle Rain Brought Huge Disaster •Jos Community Residents Recount Ordeals Of Flood Disaster That Swept Away Homes, Children
ISAAC SHOBAYO reports on a four-hour downpour in Jos last Sunday which caused the death of scores of people and destruction of buildings and properties, among others.
Events in Plateau State in the past two weeks have not been favourable; it has been weeks of grief, rage, pity and tears occasioned by various calamities that befell it in multiple fronts. Still reeling from the Fulani invasion of some villages in Barakin-Ladi and Riyom local government areas of the state, during which close to 160 people were killed, including two frontline lawmakers, Senator Gyang Dantong and Hon. Gyang Fulani, another tragedy struck last Sunday as the government and people of the state were making arrangements to bury those who lost their lives.
A torrential rain which lasted four hours further compounded the mourning mood of the state. The rain did not only wash away structures but also killed people in Angwan Rogo, Gengere, Tundu Osi, Corner Shagari and Rikkoss parts of the state capital washing their bodies into the canals in the affected communities.
The down pour which started as a shower at about 9:00 p.m and consequently lured people to sleep later snowballed into heavy cloud burst that brought disaster of great magnitude to the people. Many had gone to bed and were probably enjoying the cool weather without premonition of danger lurking around when the flooding, occasioned by the downpour began to wreak havoc.
As a result of the heavy rain, the stream along the communities overflowed its bank and the situation was worsened by poor drainage system in the areas. Some of the victims only opened their eyes to see their abodes in pools of water while houses collapsed on many in their sleep.
Throughout the night, there was wailing in virtually all the affected communities as people were trying to salvage the situation and rescue those in difficult situations. The level of damage and casualty became obvious at dawn when those who could not trace their relations raised the alarm and began frantic search for them.
At Tudun Osi settlement, it was a gory scene as it was more devastated than any other affected places. Eighteen people including one 90-year-old woman and a 90-day-old baby were confirmed dead. A relation of the aged woman, Taibat Abdulahi, told Saturday Tribune that before peope could rescue the old woman from her residence, the building had collapsed on her.
Indo Abdul Hamid, a mother, who lost six children, explained that she was woken up by her husband when the flood broke into their home.
“I was asleep when my husband woke me up and I saw water flowing into our compound. Together with my mate, I picked a Ghana-must-go bag and put our clothes in it. The flood was all over the floor of our rooms, we went into the room to pick the young boys, but we could not because the wall had already collapsed on them. When our husband made effort and entered, he also discovered that the flood had gone with them.
“I have lost six of my children, four girls and two boys, the oldest being 13 and the smallest being 90 days old. There is another child that belonged to my nephew. I am now left with only two surviving children, a 17-year-old girl and a boy of two years,” she lamented.
Another eye witness, 15-year-old, Faisal, who was still dazed as at the time of filing this report, said she was with her father attending the Ramadan Tafsir when the rain started falling but they were held back due to the heavy down pour. He added that, “sometime, my mother called me on the phone. As I was about to say hello, the phone went off only to confirm later that a building collapsed on her.
“We were at the Tafsir place at night and there was down pour. We tried to rush home with my father, we couldn’t pass through, because all roads were flooded. My mother, who was at home then, called me on phone, she was calling the name of Allah, Lailah illa Lahu while I heard the voices of my younger ones screaming and crying ,suddenly the line cut off.
“That was when our house collapsed, and my mother Hajiyaye with my four younger ones have not been seen up till now,” Faisal lamented.
At Genegere community, no fewer than 30 residential houses were washed away while one Alhaji Abdulhamid Useni lost seven children in the disaster. According to him, he had seen the corpses of six of them, while the corpse of the seventh one is yet to be recovered.
Useni said the incident occurred in the area at about 10:30p.m as a result of the stream which overflowed its bank, adding that part of his residential building collapsed on some members of his family, killing six of his children instantly and washed them away along with properties, leaving others to scamper for safety.
Also at Gengere area of Jos, one Mallam Kabiru Zakari popularly known as ‘Osama’ lost six children to the torrential rain. The breadwinner of the family told Saturday Tribune that he was away for Tafsir prayer when the incident befell his family.
“I was away for Tafsir when the rain started but could not return that night because the rain was heavy and flood had also taken over the only road to my house. But on getting home the following day, I discovered that my house had caved in and part of it washed away by the flood. I later found the corpses of five children and my wife. The following day, which was Tuesday, two of them were found by the Red Cross in a stream in Gengere, one dead and the other one alive.”
Mallam Zakari’s only surviving child is a six-year-old daughter, Aisha, who was rescued by the Red Cross. When Saturday Tribune visited the community, it was all tales of woe as sympathisers besieged the area to commiserate with those who lost their lives.
The inhabitants of the areas are still counting their losses three days after the incident. A lot of people are still missing and families of such people have continued to comb waterways in the affected communities in search of their loved ones.
Saturday Tribune learnt that in the past few days, no fewer than 20 more corpses washed away from Jos were found in the neighbouring Tilde Fulani in Bauchi State. People had since been trooping to the locality to identify the corpses.
The level of devastation is so much that as of the time of filling this report, no fewer than 60 corpses have been recovered in various parts of the affected localities. Epidemic such as cholera is also rife in the communities and the displaced camps where those affected were taking refuge.
Over 500 people have so far registered in the three designated camps, Government Secondary School, Gengere; College of Arabic and Islamic Centre, Rikkoss and a primary school at Angwan Rogo.
The community leader of Tudun Osi, Malam Abubakar Mahmud, said the community was in a trying moment and that their situation was highly devastating, stressing that, there was need for urgent help to the people who had survived the ordeal as some had no place to put their heads.
Both experts and some enlightened people in the affected communities attributed the flood in the area to lack of planning and good drainage system. Houses affected were built at the bank of a stream that runs through the communities.
Most of the affected houses in the areas were also built on the waterways and lack solid foundation to resist the water wave that swept through the communities. It is recalled that the State Ministry of Environment, shortly before the rainy season, alerted the people of the state, especially those living at flood prone areas and whose houses were at the bank of stream and river to leave on the premise of prediction of heavy rain this season.
Saturday Tribune learnt that the situation was further compounded by the prevailing crisis in Jos, the capital of Plateau State. The affected communities have been a no go area for quite some time for natives, especially Christians, just as the other side of the town are also places forbidden to the Muslims in the state.
A source close to the agency in charge of urban planning, Plateau Urban Renewal Initiative told Saturday Tribune that men of the agency could not penetrate the affected communities and pull down all illegal structures on the waterways and at the bank of stream in the area because of the prevailing hostile environment, occasioned by Jos crisis.
However, Governor David Jang, during his sympathy and condolence visit to the communities, was able to strike a balance with the people on how to plan the area to avoid future calamity. The governor said why the areas remained undeveloped was because contractors were always afraid of moving to the communities to work, saying that since the people had now agreed with the government; contractors would soon move in to do the necessary things that would open up the places.
He said the government had demolished structures in many places within the state capital without any resistance.Share