Rains pound Europe, US, China

…houses submerged, cars washed away, over 200 killed

People affected by recent floodings in Lagos and some parts of the world have yet to get over the incidents, Afeez Hanafi and Percy Ani report

A homely apartment sheltering Mrs Dorcas Nicholas, her husband and their children became a desolate ambience last Friday. The family squatted in their neighbour’s room for three trying nights elongated by uneasy sleep.

They were among several households temporarily displaced by floods that rocked Jakande Estate and other parts of Lekki, Lagos State last Friday. Furniture, clothes, electronics and household equipment were submerged, leaving Nicholas helpless.

The woman sells slippers at a stand a stone’s throw from Block 110 where she resides and was able to quickly return home to watch over the apartment when the rain started that day.

She ensured that all windows were shut and doors firmly closed only to be hamstrung by the volume of water that gushed out from every corner of the room.

“I can’t even explain how the water entered our room,” Nicholas said, her voice fused with a pall of anxiety. “Our room was filled with water. It spoiled our belongings, especially my children’s clothes. It destroyed our television set and a cable decoder. We are still cleaning the house,” she stated in a chat with our correspondent on Wednesday.

Aside from counting her losses, Nicholas had to grapple with the trauma inflicted by rainwater that was supposed to be a blessing.

She lamented, “All of us spent the night in our neighbour’s apartment upstairs for three days. I was disorganised. It was on Sunday that I started cleaning the room. The apartment is still wet as of today (Wednesday). I have been living here for 15 years.

“We clear the drainage channel every Thursday and the government also helps us to clear it occasionally. I think the problem is that the channel is too narrow to contain the volume of water discharging into it.”

A heavy rain that fell for about four hours last Friday left a number of houses and highways in the state flooded with many commuters stuck in gridlock. Worst hit were locations on the island, including Jakande Estate, Awoyaya, Lekki Phase 1, Ajah and Marina, where tens of vehicles in car parks were submerged.

In one viral video, passengers in a BRT bus whose interior was already deluged were seen screaming about the frightening sight. In other clips, houses and stationary vehicles were engulfed in water while motorists caught in traffic waded through waterlogged roads.

On Thursday in Kano, a downpour mixed with whirlwinds lasting about three hours wreaked havoc as it  submerged some homes at Kundila Housing Estate opposite the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital on Zaria Road. Other houses within the metropolis were also reported to have been submerged by flood, causing a high level of destruction. Recently, severe floods submerged about 300 buildings in several communities in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, after a downpour in the affected locations.

Residents lament poor drainage channels

Unlike the Nicholas’ who squatted with their neighbour, Kunle Jolomi, a teacher at a private school in Lekki, had no respite from the natural disaster. Together with his wife and two kids, they stayed inside their flooded apartment bailing out water every day.

“I live close to Oba Elegushi New Market, Jakande Estate,” the 36-year-old teacher said as he began to share his family’s plight. “The water was just gushing out from the floor. It spoiled a lot of things in my room. We used planks to raise our bed and slept in the pool of water for three days because we have nowhere to relocate to.”

As of Wednesday, the water had almost disappeared from the teacher’s room but his worry was far from over – he feared another heavy rain would spell trouble for his family.

He stated, “Some years ago, I had to pack out of the house at night with my children and wife due to flooding. At times, we checked into a nearby hotel or spent a week in a friend’s house. I wasn’t at home last Friday when it rained. It was some people who assisted my wife.”

Jolomi said structures built on flood plains within the estate were one of the factors responsible for flooding, noting that “there is no proper evacuation of the drainage channel.”

“Also, there is no gutter to channel the water away from the premises to the drainage channel on the road. The gutters are blocked,” he added.

A pastor, Sunday Mefor, was not spared by the disaster though his presence at home during the rain minimised the damage to his property. He lamented that flooding had become a frequent problem in the community.

He said, “It affected many residents. I have been bailing out water since last Friday and up till now (Wednesday) there is water in my room. I was at home when the rain started so I was able to salvage some of my property.

“It would have destroyed everything if I wasn’t around. We have not really felt the government presence since we were relocated here from Maroko in 1990. But during elections, politicians come to canvass vote.”

Taiwo Bashorun never thought of relocating to his hometown in Badagry any time soon but the havoc wreaked by the Friday flooding left him and his family with no choice.

He stated, “After the Friday rain, we could not stay in the house for three days. My wife, our two children and I had to relocate to Badagry. Some of my electronic appliances got spoiled.

“It (flooding) happens every year. The drainage system is not good enough. It is narrow for the volume of water discharging into it. There is a lot of erosion in Jakande Estate; the government should help us find a solution to it.”

The Chairman, Epetedo Community Development Association, Lagos Island, Bola Hassan, told Saturday PUNCH that several streets were flooded that day, stating that residents were displaced.

He said, “Many areas in Adeniji-Adele were flooded. Several vehicles were also submerged. Some houses were built on drainage channels, thereby preventing free flow of water. That causes the water to overflow and flood the streets.

“Also, sand filling of Ilubirin (land reclamation) is also contributing to flooding on Lagos Island because it doesn’t allow water to flow properly. The government should reconstruct drainage channels and make them wide enough. Some drainage channels are blocked.”

Global flooding amid climate change

Reacting to the disaster, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, said flooding was a global phenomenon and was not peculiar to Lagos State.

He had said, “When you go to Germany, you will see that what we have here is a flash flood. What is happening to us is climate change. The world is going through change.  I am not unsympathetic to the pain of the people but the floods aren’t caused by bad drainage. Our drainage channels are in good condition. Within two to three hours after the rain, you will see that the flood will end. All the water would have gone through the drainage channels.”

Omotosho said the government had been warning Lagosians about the impending flood and advised them to get prepared.

He added, “We warned them against blocking the drainage, pouring dirt in the channel, building houses on water pathways and other unapproved locations. More importantly, they should maintain a clean environment.”

Indeed, many parts of Europe, America and Asia have had a fair share of flooding in recent days despite boasting a high level of urban planning and infrastructure.

A few days ago, the world woke up to the devastating and shocking scenes of the deadly floods that swept across Western Germany, parts of Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and northern France.

The flooding was so intense that it echoed images of deluges from Africa during the rainy season. As the level of destruction to property and loss of lives filtered through, Germany, one of the most technologically-advanced countries in the world, battled flooding.

When the rains first started on July 13, no one expected that the severe storms would cause rain to fall for 24 hours– swelling streams that eventually triggered massive landslides and washed away houses and cars.

According to the Associated Press, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was stricken by the massive devastation the floods wreaked on Adenau when she visited the town. She described the scene as terrifying.

So far, according to the NBC, at least 196 people have been confirmed dead – 165 in Germany and 31 in Belgium – and the numbers were expected to rise as hundreds more remain missing.

In central China, about 33 people have died and eight remain missing following floods that left some parts of the country devastated. The torrential rainfall caused neighbourhoods to be submerged, trapped passengers in subway cars, caused dams and rivers to overflow and resulted in terrible landslides.

Torrential rains have battered Henan province since last weekend, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and causing 1.22 billion yuan (about $190 million) of economic damage, Henan authorities said Thursday.

In Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan, a viral video was posted by some trapped commuters underground on Line 5 of the Zhengzhou subway. Hundreds of commuters could be seen trapped in rising water as murky torrents gushed into the tunnel and seeped into carriageways. Some of them clung to ceiling handles to keep their heads above the rising waters.

In another video, several bodies were seen lying lifeless on the platform, while rescuers tried desperately to resuscitate some of them. Authorities disclosed that in all, over 500 passengers were evacuated from the subway line while 12 were killed and five others injured.

The United States of America is not left out of the disaster that has now become a global phenomenon. In the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, residents have been inundated by monsoon storms that caused flooding resulting in the destruction of property and the death of a man on a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon.

Two Nigerians who witnessed the flooding in Europe but unaffected by it also narrated their experiences. One of them living in Belgium identified only as Joshua said that he had moved to the country about 10 years ago.

Joshua stated that since the rains started last week, he had not been able to take on new jobs to earn money as everyone, including him, was concerned about the safety of their lives and property. He said, “When the warning came from the government advising residents in Liege to either evacuate the city or move to higher grounds, I was confused on what to do as I was worried about the safety of my wife and two kids. Thankfully, we were able to relocate to a friend’s house in Brussels before the flood overtook the city.”

He further stated that he had yet to return to Liege to assess the level of damage to his home and business place, hoping that the damage was not so bad.

He said, “I really hope and pray that the damage is minimal and I can get on my feet as soon as possible. But even if things are really bad, I am certain that as long as my family and I are alive and healthy, we can surmount any challenge.”

His counterpart in the same area, who gave his name only as Adesanya, said he was lucky not to be caught in the flood and mudslides as he heeded the flood warning immediately it was announced by the government.

He said, “As soon as I heard the information warning those who reside close to the Meuse River to evacuate or move to higher parts of their houses due to the heavy rains, I packed a few clothes and made my way out of the city to Brussels, where I have some other Nigerian friends.

“With my experience back home in Nigeria where there are no warnings of flooding and it just takes everyone by surprise, when I heard the announcement concerning the flood – something that has never happened in my five years here- I knew something was going to go wrong and that was why I quickly moved away.”

Adesanya stated that the damage to property and loss of lives he saw on television and with what his friends in Liege told him, he was lucky not to suffer any loss.

He stated, “I was supposed to order for new goods but due to certain factors, I delayed making the order. I guess now that it was God that prevented me from incurring a heavy loss. I can only pray to God to comfort those who have lost families and property because the city was just about bouncing back from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and now this disaster happens.”

NHSA predicts worse scenario in Lagos 

In the wake of the floods recorded in many parts of Lagos last Friday the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency warned that residents should prepare for more devastating erosion in September.

The agency noted that no new holding dam had been constructed across the River Niger in Nigeria and the course of the Ladgo Dam in Cameroon to mitigate the impact of flood arising from the possible opening of the dam.

The Director-General, NIHSA, Clement Nze, told The PUNCH on Sunday that a dam was being designed by experts for that purpose.

Cameroon had advised Nigeria to build holding dams across River Niger and the course of the Ladgo Dam so that the annual release of water from the facility would not cause damage in Nigeria as witnessed in 2014 and 2016.

Nze stated that the peak of the rainy season in Lagos often occurred in September, adding that residents of the state should brace for severe floods by taking all necessary measures now to mitigate the devastating impact.

He had said, “The peak of the rainy season in Lagos is projected to be in September and has always been in that month. So, what was experienced across the state on Friday might be far less severe than what will happen during the peak of the rain.”

He noted that once the Oyan Dam in Abeokuta, Ogun State, was opened to release water, the floods in the South-West states might worsen.

Nze stressed the need to release the Oyan Dam once its water level became high to prevent it from rupturing.

“If the Oyan Dam collapses, the flood situation in that region will be worse. So, it is better to release water from the dam once its water level gets to the point of allowing some of it to flow out,” he added.

The NIHSA boss noted that the agency’s flood predictions included highly, moderately and least probable classifications.

He said, “Lagos and surrounding areas were included in our prediction in terms of the flooding that occurred. Also, Lagos is one of the 10 mega cities globally and there are six cities that are sinking and might sink or disappear in 50 years based on meteorology. Lagos is one of them.

Similarly, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) on Wednesday while reacting to the July 16, 2021 severe flooding in Lagos, warned Nigerians to expect high volume rainfall as the year progresses.

Describing the Lagos incident as unfortunate, the agency in a statement by its General Manager, Public Relations, Muntari Ibrahim, stated that it had earlier predicted that the state would experience such an occurrence.

It said, “During the seasonal climate prediction held on February 2, 2021 by NiMet, a normal to above normal rainfall was the projection for the country followed by advisories on the socio-economic implications.

“As such, high volume and high intensity rainfall is expected. These are capable of faster saturation of the soil, making it difficult to hold more volume of rainfall, hence excess runoffs with the ability to flood the environment.”

Providing updates on the recent Lagos rainfall, NiMet said its Forecast Office had on July 14, 2021 made a three-day forecast and predicted that cloudy skies were expected over the inland and coastal cities of the South, with chances of morning rainfall over parts of Rivers, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states.

It said its prediction also stated that later in the day, rain was anticipated over parts of Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Ekiti, Oyo, Osun, Lagos, Bayelsa, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states.

The agency stated, “On July 15, 2021, forecast was made again with respect to Lagos State; this time, there was development and the trajectory suggested that cloudy skies and rain were expected in the morning, afternoon and evening.

“These forecasts anticipated a rainy day in the coastal city of Lagos state for July 16, 2021. Consequently, the eventual heavy rainfall that occurred in Lagos State on July 16, 2021 was expected.”

NiMet said the weather outlook for July 15, 2021 indicated that heavy volume of rainfall was observed with 125mm and 66mm of rainfall recorded at the agency’s Oshodi and Ikeja weather stations.

“This, with other factors, caused flash flood episodes, especially over the Lagos Marina on Victoria Island,” NiMet stated.

The agency assured Nigerians that it would continue to monitor the weather and give alerts when necessary, urging the citizens to follow its forecast to avoid calamities.

Experts proffer solutions to Lagos flooding

A Professor of Climatology at the Federal University of Technology Yola, Adamawa State, Ambrose Zemba, blamed flooding in Lagos on both climate change and poor drainage system.

He also noted that Lagos, being a low-land area, coupled with high rainfalls occasioned by its closeness to the Atlantic Ocean, was more prone to flooding than some other parts of the country.

Zemba stated, “The issue of climate change is actually there. The pattern of rain we have these days is no longer the way it used to be. We normally have a high concentration of rainfall within a shorter period. So whenever there is higher intensity of rainfall, it will lead to flooding coupled with human activities such as how people use the drainage channels. Once you don’t allow water to pass, it strays into houses.

“Climate change is also a factor. If you look around, vegetation is no longer available. It is already a build-up area. Water will no longer sink because the areas are cemented so you expect high flow of water on the surface.”

The expert advised the state government to construct drainage channels wide enough to contain excess water and enjoined people to ensure their proper use.

He added, “The state government can also practice greening where there will be green grasses as much as possible. Trees should also be planted in excess; on the streets and open areas. It will go a long way in mitigating the effect of climate change.”

Also, a Professor of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Samson Awokola, identified infrastructural defects and the impact of climate change as some of the factors fuelling destructive flooding.

He said, “Flooding is not peculiar to Nigeria this year; it happens almost all over the world now. We have seen the stories of Germany, United States. Even in places where they have good drainage systems, floods occur. Look at the one that created a landslide in Japan recently. Those are well-planned areas.

“When we are talking about our own case, most of the time, we don’t really plan. Most of our cities are not planned and nobody is really thinking about it. When you look at our drainage system, what are their standards?

“Look at Oshodi, for instance, there is a new rail line that is not above the floodplain. All these are supposed to be taken into consideration. Nobody can accurately predict nature 100 per cent. Who could say Germany, The Netherlands, China and others would be affected? Who could say the US would be flooded and cars would be moving like a pack of cards?”

Awokola urged the government and the people to be conscious of flooding and proactive, noting that water would always find its level “no matter what it takes.”

He said, “Before the onset of rainfall, we need to make sure that our drainage channels are not blocked. There must be a plan to ensure that people take care of their surroundings every time. Where we know water would pass, we should make way for it to have access. The structural aspect is another factor. The whole area needs to be studied. Where we need to expand the drainage system, we should.” Agency report

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