Flood: Bayelsa residents now access homes on canoes

A resident of Sagbama LGA accessing his home on a wooden canoe
A resident of Sagbama LGA accessing his home on a wooden canoe

Many have been displaced, houses submerged, and property worth millions of naira lost in the flood menace ravaging some parts of the country, including Bayelsa State.

The situation has become worrisome as some residents in rural communities in the state now access their already flooded apartments by canoes, since they claim not to have anywhere else to go to.

Though the state government has set up an Internally Displaced Persons Camp (IDP) in Sagbama Local Government Area of the state, the pain of travelling from some coastal communities where the water level is increasingly high and/or leaving their homes is a major problem.

Recently, residents along the Epie and Onopa creeks in Yenagoa Local Government Area of the state lamented the impact of flooding, which according to them is caused by the overflow of the water from Taylor creek, tributaries of Orashi and Niger rivers.

Mrs. Joy Elvis, a resident at Onopa area, said the people were helpless as the assistance pledged by the state government in its sensitisation messages was not in sight.

She said: “It has not been easy; the water level has been on the increase, which is usual at this time of the year, but the flood has already entered our houses and we have been under pressure.

“We need help badly but no one seems to care. We have resorted to moving some of our valuable things to neighbours’ houses because there are no shelters provided by government.

“Our prayer is that the water goes back because if it goes beyond this level, even the good Samaritans accommodating us will be threatened as well,” Elvis said.

Another resident, Mr. John Abide, said they have been compelled to use local canoes to access their homes following the constantly rising water level in the past few days.

He said: “A lot of people affected are not willing to leave because they are reluctant to be a burden to their kith and kin, so what most people do is to adapt by making wooden platforms within their houses where important things are kept.

“Those who have canoes have put it to use. We are predominantly fishermen so we are not so afraid of water,” he said.

But the Bayelsa State government has continually expressed its determination to ensure that no life is lost in the flood disaster currently ravaging the state.

Commissioner for Information, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, while giving update on the situation, assured that with the proactive steps government had put in place, there was no cause for alarm.

According to him, reports from field workers indicate that communities like Egwe-ama in Brass Local Government, Imiringi, Ayama, Otuobhi in Ogbia, Edwarie in Southern Ijaw and Trofani in Sagbama have all been hit by the flood.

Even Governor Seriake Dickson’s village, Toro-Orua in Sagbama Local Government and former President Goodluck Jonathan’s home town, Otuoke in Ogbia Local Government, were not spared. People travelling to Otueke, where the Federal University is sited, now ply alternative routes.

Places like Ekeremor Main town, Abukoegede in Tamogbene, Ekeremor Local Government Area, Kaiama and Sampou in Kolokuma/Opokuma and Anibeze Community in Sagbama are the worst hit by flood.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has given the estimated number of displaced persons in Bayelsa State as 150, 000 but communities still live in fear as no one knows the next victim, even Yenagoa, the state capital, is not spared as some communities have already been submerged.

Co-ordinator, Emergency Operation Centre E of NEMA, Mr. Yakubu Suleiman, disclosed that apart from 150,000 people displaced, several homes, farmlands, schools and churches have been submerged in communities across the eight local government areas of the state.

He said: “We have carried an assessment, the ravaging flood has so far affected and displaced no fewer than 150, 000 persons and the number keeps growing because the water is rising on daily bases, several communities have been submerged, markets, schools, hospitals and churches are already under the water.

“We have cleared some portions of lands for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Biseni and mounted some tents at Egbebiri Community all in Sagbama local government. We have over 110 tents to be mounted in different locations and the emergency monitoring team is working round the clock to ensure that every affected home is assisted. The medical team is on ground because you know once the water is polluted; the next thing will be diseases. We have health experts from federal ministry of health and members of the Red Cross Society. On potable water for the affected persons, we have brought water treated plants and it will be installed in the camp so that the people will have access to potable water,” the coordinator explained.

Governor Seriake Dickson has already expressed concern over the flood situation in the state, describing it as another pathetic disaster.

The governor, who said he was shocked by the gory images and reports of the flood, also directed immediate release of N50 million for the purchase of relieve materials for victims of the disaster.

The State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, quoted the governor as giving the directive during a meeting with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and chairmen of the local government councils.

Dickson stated that the money is a quick intervention for the victims to be provided with some succour and asked officials of SEMA to work with the council chairmen for the distribution of the relieve materials to the victims to ameliorate their plights.

The governor also directed the State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu, to mobilize health officials to provide immediate medical intervention in order to avoid any possible outbreak of epidemic as a result of the flood.

He called on those who reside in flood prone areas to immediately vacate and move to safer places or the camps that are being set up by SEMA, insisting that no life must be lost.

Meanwhile, the governor while receiving the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadiq Abubakar, had sought the collaboration of the Nigerian Air Force to undertake emergency evacuation operations of flood victims in most communities that have been submerged by flood.

He said: “Let me commend the Air Force for the way and manner your officers and men supported this state during the 2012 flood and let me also use this opportunity to call for more support, especially now. As we speak, so many of our communities are under water. As you know, the whole of Bayelsa is below sea level. So, once there is a major flooding situation in our country, our state is one of the worst affected because all the major rivers pass through here to the Atlantic.

“I want to see a situation where your officers and men collaborate more with our people, especially in the area of evacuation because the situation we have at hand is alarming. The reports we are getting are not palatable. We are told that the situation will continue for the next one month, by which time, I can count on my fingers how many communities in Bayelsa that will not be affected.”

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