Nature versus man: Many displaced, properties destroyed as rainstorm wreaks havoc in Ondo communities
For residents of Akoko communities in Ondo State, these are not the best of times. The rainy season has announced its presence to the communities with a devastating blow of ruin. HAKEEM GBADAMOSI presents their pain, frustration and cry for help.
A rainstorm which ravaged Akoko communities of Ondo State penultimate Thursday has left many residents of the area homeless, displacing them while properties worth several millions of naira were destroyed by the torrential storm which lasted about three hours.
Three communities in Akokoland were badly affected by the rainstorm. They are Supare Akoko, Ikare Akoko and Ugbe, all in Akoko North East Local Government Area of Ondo State. Residents of these communities are counting their losses as a result of the havoc caused by the heavy rain accompanied by storms. No fewer than 250 houses and shops were affected during the storms in these communities.
These communities were devastated by an unprecedented weather condition accompanied by violent rain and storm destroying houses. Apart from private houses, some structures also affected by the storm included schools, police station, palace, mosques and churches. The storm which also uprooted some trees and scores of electric poles has thrown the communities into darkness.
Speaking to Nigerian Tribune, the traditional ruler of Supare, who is also a victim of the disaster, the Onisupare of Supare Akoko, Oba Adejoro Adedeji, described the experience as terrible for the residents of the community. He said though no human casualties were recorded, properties worth millions of naira were lost to the storm.
The traditional ruler said: “It was a terrible storm that affected a lot of houses here.
It has never happened since I assumed the throne of my forefathers. It affected over 80 houses here, electric poles and other valuables. If we are to cost the effect of the damages, it will amount to several millions of naira.”
He explained that he was away on an official engagement at Iju Odo when the rain started. “I started receiving calls from home on that day. But I thank God that no life was lost.
The most surprising thing is that the rain did not fall at Oba Akoko, Eti-Oro and Akungba Akoko that we share boundaries with.
People started coming to the palace for help and using the palace as contact to the state government, seeking assistance
“We have written to the state governor for assistance; we have written to our House of Representatives members at the National Assembly.
Some of them have sent some teams here to inspect the extent of damage.
The deputy governor visited here to see the level of damage and hopefully the state government will do something to cushion the effects on our people. We want to call on the state and federal governments to intervene as the degree of damage is beyond individual capabilities”
One of the pathetic sights was the destruction on the building of a centenarian, Pa. Akin Ogunyebi. The aged Pa Ogunyebi, who lives alone, expressed fear over his health condition saying sleeping around without a home would hasten his journey to his creator.
The 101-year-old Ogunyebi said he lived alone after losing his wife some few years ago while all his children lived in the city. “
I have been living alone since I lost my wife some years ago, all my children are not living here but I have informed them all and they promised to be home soon.
“The rainstorm destroyed all I have including this house. My box where I keep my valuables and belonging, especially clothes, has been destroyed.
I am now begging to live and sleeping in a neighbour’s house. I pray help comes on time before I die of cold. I am left with virtually nothing,” he said.
He however cried to the state government to quickly attend to the need of the people affected by the disaster, noting that many houses were affected in the community.
A physically-challenged Balogun Murtala was close to tears while explaining his challenges after the wreck. The fashion designer said his shop and home were destroyed by the storm while his machine, the only source of his livelihood, was also destroyed during the rainstorm.
Muritala said “as a physically challenged person, it has not been easy for me. It has been tough since this incident. I am a fashion designer and my machine has been destroyed including clothes given to me by customers.”
He however appealed to the state to come to their aid, saying, “we are waiting for the government to assist us with roofing sheets and other things to help us live again.”
In Ikare Akoko, where the disaster was more severe, one of the community leaders, Chief Oluke Olamomiara, said “it was quick and sudden; within some 50 minutes of the downpour the roofs of many houses were blown off. Many houses were reduced to rubbles and several others were cracked and pulled down by the rainstorm.”
He said more than 100 houses were destroyed rendering over 1,400 people homeless as they were forced to take shelter in the premises of some schools and homes of neighbours. He said most of them lost properties, domestic animals and other possessions worth hundreds of millions of naira.
While lamenting his loss, 29-year-old Tamiyu Taofeek said “I have a wife and two children. On that fateful day, we were not at home; we returned home from shop to rest after the day’s work only to meet the whole structure destroyed.
“It destroyed houses, shops, chairs, refrigerators, which will amount to over N1.5 million to get most of things destroyed back, including the building. We are begging the government to assist in any capacity they can. With my family now, we are living with friends, which is not convenient for us. Many things such as my mattress, all my electronics were destroyed. We are sleeping outside now since the rainstorm.”
A resident of the affected area, Johnson Owoeye, also lamented that the economic situation had been affecting his business before the incident which destroyed his shop and goods. According to him, “the rainstorm has run me aground. We are only begging the government to assist us at this crucial period.”
Another victim, 84-year-old Madam Felicia Famuwagun, who has turned her neighbour’s house to home for over a week, expressed fear that her children might not be able to put back the structure to shape on time.
The octogenarian who said the community never experienced such storm added that “I was surprised to discover that no death was recorded except the destruction done to properties and domestic animals.
“The rainstorm destroyed everything in my house; we don’t have anywhere to sleep now.
We are only staying in our neighbour’s house, which is not convenient for us. I am begging the government to assist us, I don’t have anything again.”
Moved by the plight of the people within the local government, the chairman of the council, Rafiu Eniayewu, moved round to inspect the affected areas, with a promise to table the challenges to the state government and relevant agencies to provide relief materials for the people.
He described the storm as devastating saying it was a natural disaster which could have happened to any area but called on the people of the area to imbibe planting of trees in the community to serve as wind breaker.
He assured the victims of government’s assistance.
The state deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, visited the area and communities affected by the rainstorm, saying the state government received the news of the destruction with sadness, but assured that the government would not fold its arms and turn its back on the victims.
Agboola disclosed that the state officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) visited the area to ascertain the level of the damage caused by the rainstorm in order to ameliorate the plights of the victims.
He assured that the state government would provide immediate response in order to cushion the effects of the incident, but stressed the need for the residents of the state to be vigilant and conscious of the fact that the rainy season had just begun and attention should be geared towards adequate protection of lives and property, while he urged the people to desist from dumping refuse and other items that can hinder easy flow of water.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Tribune gathered that most artisans in the community and building materials merchants have hiked the price of building materials. The prices of roofing materials had been jacked up by the merchants while the masons and carpenters charged exorbitant amount for the rebuilding and renovation of the destroyed by the rainstorm.
Most of the people renovating their building after the storm said they had been paying through their noses to renovate their houses. According to one of the victims, the price of cement had been increased and the workers’ charges doubled for their workmanship. They called on the state government to quickly come to their aid.