Safety tips in the season of rains
Last weekend, there was a rare harvest of deaths in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State when 12 persons, including a mother and her two sons, were swept away in a ravaging flood that hit Abeokuta and its environs after a torrential rain.
Mrs. Alirah Akintobi and her two sons, Shuaib and Abideen, were confirmed dead at Ilawo area of Abeokuta. The kiosk where Mrs. Akintobi had her petty store was swept away on Friday evening by the rampaging flood.
Eyewitnesses said while trying to escape, she fell and got drowned along with the two boys in the flood that reached lintel level of houses in some affected areas. Scores of residents were sacked from their homes and shops in many locations in Abeokuta and its environs with apartments were either submerged or brought down by the flood.
Also last week, three young men were struck to death by thunder in the Ijebu Ode area of Ogun State during a downpour accompanied by thunderstorm. The victims, who were on the same motorcycle when the rain started, had disembarked from it to seek shelter around the Equity (Gateway) Hotel in the town for the rain to subside. They were struck to death simultaneously by thunder where they stood.
This is just as the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has warned that many parts of the country are likely to experience flooding due to a shift in rainfall pattern caused by climate change. The Director-General of NiMet, Prof. Sani Mashi, gave the warning in an interview with newsmen at the weekend in Abuja.
Mashi said distortions had occurred in the pattern of rainfall leading to variation in the amount of rain that was expected in the country. He explained that in line with NiMet’s 2018 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP), so much water would be made available on the surface between the last week of July and end of August.
According to him, once it rains, the ground cannot comfortably contain and absorb the water making it to runoff and resulting in so much water on the surface.
“Unless adequate provision is made to accommodate the amount of water that is running on the surface, definitely the likelihood of flood is going to be very high, especially in the areas that are adjoining the riverine locations.”
Mashi said the flash points of flooding had been identified and presented to the public by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), the agency responsible for flood monitoring. He explained that NiMet and NIHSA were working together to ensure that accurate flood information was made available to the public to minimise the impact of flood in the country.
It would be recalled that NIHSA had in its 2018 Annual Flood Outlook, announced that 380 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 35 states would experience flooding this year. According to NIHSA, flooding will be high in about 78 LGAs, although the situation will generally not be as severe as what the country experienced in 2012.
The Acting Director-General, NIHSA, Olayinka Ogunwale, during the presentation in May, stated that the government had been issuing warnings to residents in flood-prone areas to relocate from such locations.
A red alert was also issued by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) last year, which said about 14 million people were being made homeless on the average each year as a result of sudden disasters such as floods and storms.
This was the same year Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) said over 110,000 people in 24 communities, including Makurdi, the state capital, were displaced by flood with more than 2,769 households affected.
For the Director General of the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), Mustapha Maihajja, apart from emphasizing the need for the zonal and operational agencies to embark on disaster risk reduction activities, state governments are enjoined to invest more in disaster prevention and take Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of their various projects seriously on how it will affect or disrupt the environment.
According to him, human-induced activities have been exacerbating extreme natural hazards to become disasters. “Ozone layer depletion is caused by excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and melting by the sun. In addition to excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causative factors of ozone layer depletion are gas flaring, just as automobile/industrial emissions are reducing the serene atmosphere to hostile environment leading to heavier rainfall and its side effects.
“State governments should as a matter of priority rejig their urban renewal strategies and processes for building construction in a way that that they won’t stand as a challenge to the effects of climate change, which is becoming a gradual reality.
“On the prevailing heavy rainfall being experienced, we are causing much of the adverse weather. We fell trees in multiples but fail to replace any and you know that trees use up our carbon dioxide and give us oxygen to breath. This has left more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causing ozone depletion, which means the ozone layer separating the sun from having direct impact on the earth is experiencing rapid melting of the ice from above while the excess carbon dioxide from the earth also enhance rapid melting of the ice from under.”
The Information Officer, South-West Zone of NEMA, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said NEMA has been proactive in disaster prevention through the current efforts of the present administration to train and empower the NEMA/NYSC Emergency Management Vanguards and Grassroots Emergency Management Corps to take disaster risk reduction mechanism to the grassroots, especially the younger generation in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.
On what citizens must do to avoid being victims of flood during this rainy season, he advised thus: “It is highly advisable to avoid taking refuge under a tree or make shift objects during rainfall or lightning. The thunderstorms strike the tallest object especially trees. It actually travels between the dead inner part of the tree and the bark.
“Avoid staying back in vehicles when there is rainfall and flooding. Once the flood waters reaches half of the wheels (tires) the vehicle can be swept away by the raging water. Avoid sending children on errands when it is about to rain or immediately after rainfall. You know children like to play under the rain and would not know the dangers embedded in running into floodwater.
“Stop dumping dirt/refuse into the drainage system, this can cause blockage thus causing undeserved dangers. Avoid walking or driving during rainfall, especially near drainage.
“People living inside a building should be cautious and observant to look for signs of crack or shift in buildings. All collapsed buildings have signs or signals they emit before collapse, such as cracking noise, sudden cracks on the pillars or beams, roofs shaking and many unusual development happening about 48 hours to the eventual collapse.”
The NEMA information officer noted that some communities in the northern part of the country have earth dams, which are used to care for their herds, and many of them have turned to dangerous spots for residents in the event of heavy downpour.
He advised that the people must ensure children do not turn the place into swimming pool because as the rains fill the earth dams, the kids turn them into playing grounds leading to death of those children.
“Every house must ensure that they have an emergency kit and make a family communications plan, especially those living in floodplains and riverine communities. People should construct barriers to stop floodwater from entering the building and seal walls in basements with waterproof element.
“We should avoid building in a floodplain. We should know that flash floods could occur. It will rain shortly but quantity and volume of the downpour will be very heavy and minutes after the downpour stop, the flooding comes up heavy and this is the most dangerous of flooding because it catches people napping, thus killing more than the normal flooding.”
He warned that those living in high flood risk areas, especially Lekki, Ajah and Lagos Island in Lagos State, Port Harcourt, Opobo and surrounding communities in Rivers State, Bayelsa State, Cross River State, and River Niger/Benue axis.
“Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without typical warnings. If you had traveled out of a community after some months, do not drive through a road you seems to have known earlier, wait till the rainwater has subsided because bridges or channels could have been washed away within weeks after your journey.
“Avoid walking in floodwaters because of live electric cables to avoid electrocution and switch off all utilities in the building once it starts to rain. Block possible access route that wild aquatic animals can crawl in through into your home. Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving.
“Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground, when water is not moving or not more than a few inches deep. You and the vehicle can be swept away quickly. If your vehicle is trapped in rapidly moving water, stay in the vehicle. If the water is rising inside the vehicle, seek refuge on the roof. Stay away from damaged areas unless your assistance has been specifically requested by police, fire, or relief organization”, he advised.