Ahead of the full blast of the rainy season, fears are heightening in Cross River State and several other South-belt states on the possible havoc the rains will wreak on the people. This fear was rather accentuated by a recent rainstorm that swept through 13 out of the 18 Local Government Areas of the state. By the time the raging storm calmed, four persons have lost their lives with 20 seriously injured, just as scores of families have been rendered homeless.
Three of the victims were said to have been killed either by branches of trees which broke and hit them, or collapsing walls of buildings knocked them down to death. Yet, one of the victims was said to have been struck down by thunder and lightening. While the rain lasted, people were generally helpless as they could not do anything to either avert the rain nor mitigate the arising consequences.
Many of the injured are being treated in both hospitals and herbal homes because of the nature of their injuries, many who have fractures believe that they would heal faster using trado-medical therapy, instead of orthodox medication in regular hospitals. One of them who suffered a fractured skull was referred to a specialist hospital in Enugu for surgery.
Mr. Samuel Edom a brother to one of the deceased, Mr. Ekam Ekpishoko (60) of Egoja–Ndim in Ogoja Local Government Area narrated that when they saw the ominous clouds enveloped the community at about 5pm on May 1st, 2012 everyone scampered to his or her home for safety for fear of the unknown.
Not too long after, he added, the rains came down in torrents amidst a wild windstorm that seemed determined to bring down the entire community.
“My brother was in his room with his family while I was in mine in the same building engaging in discussion in loud voices because of the rising sound of storm and rain, when suddenly I heard a loud sound of a tree falling and crushing down our home.
"A 22 feet tall historic tree which stood about 20 metres from the house was uprooted by the storm and in the process of falling crushed other nearby smaller trees including palm trees, mango trees, and orange trees, with all the falling trees uniting to pull down surrounding houses", he said.
After the crash, he called out to his brother but only heard wailing from the family members and that when he managed to limp (due to injuries he sustained) to his brother’s apartment, he found him lying dead having been crushed by a tree branch.
Over 15,000 residential homes, churches, recreational centres, schools, hospitals and market were affected by the storm as many of the houses were completely uncapped while some were knocked down.
About 20,000 persons were displaced majority of whom are the most vulnerable– women and children. While some of the victims are being accommodated by neighbours, majority are living helplessly in makeshift huts and under very miserable conditions too. Some schools which managed to re-organise themselves now teach lessons under the surviving trees, even as most of the pupils could no longer find their desks and chairs. They have become refugees in their hearths, their fatherland. No thanks to the angst of nature.
Meteorologists had predicted heavy rainfall this year, ostensibly as a result of the much talked-about climate change. More rains are expected in the next three months. It is not exactly known the amount of damage the rains will bring. But if what has been prefaced is a sign of things to come, then there is enough cause for worry among the people, and even government.
In his reaction, the chairman of the Yala Local Government Council, Hon. Gabe Ugor said the Council was overwhelmed by the destruction caused by the storm and appealed for urgent attention from the State and Federal Governments to provide succour to the affected persons.
His Ogoja Council counterpart, John Edi Makpan lamented that the destruction of public schools would affect academics and called for action on the part of the State, Federal and philanthropic organisations.
Assessing the disaster, the Director-General, Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Mr. Vincent Aquah described the destructions caused by the storm as monumental.
He said that it was apparently beyond the capacity of the State Government and appealed to the Federal Government to intervene.
The SEMA Director-General who was in company of the NEMA South-South Zonal Coordinator visited the affected communities to see things for themselves to enable them make recommendations to the appropriate quarters.
Some of the victims said they were satisfied with the passionate disposition of the State and Federal Government as well as the Local Authorities as displayed by the prompt assessment of the calamity.
They however appealed that the visit should be urgently followed up with materials to enable them normalise their shattered lives.