A 25-year-old nursing mother, Mrs. Ndidi Okereke, almost threw her three-month-old baby into the flood on August 15, after a ravaging downpour brought down one side of her rented two bedroomed apartment along Target Street in the Calabar-South axis of the Cross River State capital.
The speed at which the water found its way into her home within split seconds, left the mother of three traumatised.
It took the swift intervention of some neighbours who were also in the same dilemma to first sort out the pathetic case of Mrs. Okereke before facing theirs.
Although flood has become a recurring decimal in most parts of the country, the case of Target Street and its environs in Calabar is peculiar because residents go through horrendous experiences any day there is downpour.
While many residents of Target Street, Goldie, Murray, Ebito and the lower part of Nelson Mandela streets are said to have died out of frustration caused by the disaster, others have lost property worth millions of naira to the flood in the area each time it rained.
In fact, authorities of the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency say no fewer than 15 persons have died within the last one month in the flood-prone areas of the state.
Shop owners and residents in the sloppy Target Street and environs have in the last few weeks lost millions of naira in form of wanton destruction whenever there is rain.
They lament that all the drains from Watt Market to Nelson Mandela and other adjoining streets find their way to Target Street to cause mayhem to buildings.
Lamenting her ordeal after the August 15 disaster, Mrs. Okereke, said she had no other option but attempt to throw her baby when she found out that it was almost becoming her last option.
“Within seconds after I heard a huge sound, I saw water gushing into the house and my immediate thinking was to throw out my small baby with the hope that she could be rescued. It was through divine intervention that I saw two young men who rescued my children and myself from the water,” she said.
A 75-year-old resident of Ebito Street, Mrs. Joy Akpama, blamed government for the disaster in the area, arguing that a massive drainage project that was initiated by a former governor of the state, Mr. Clement Ebri, was never completed by subsequent administrations.
She said, “The first channel was constructed during the administration of Mr. Clement Ebri, but the project was never completed. It is the lack of completion that is causing serious flooding along the axis where we have the channel. We are just victims of government’s neglect and a lot of residents of Target Street have died due to frustration.
“There was even a period that it was suggested that the area be declared a disaster zone and the suggestion was that residents of the area be evacuated but government never worked on that report.
“People are dying every year in the rains in this small axis because they do not have anywhere else to relocate to. When it rains, the channels overflow and this returns to the houses. We are really suffering and we are dying slowly in this area. We have written several letters calling on the government to address our plight but there has been no response.”
A costume store owner, whose shop became the epicentre of the disaster by virtue of the massive destruction, Ms Pamela Ise, said the recurring flood disaster in the area was as a result of inappropriate drainage system to evacuate the water from the smaller gutters to the large drain.
She said the problem became noticeable since the early part of 2001 when it was observed that the water channel that evacuates water from some parts of Calabar had been redirected to Target Street area and its environs.
Ise said, “This flood in Target Street is different and it started sometime in early 2001. Then, we were made to understand that the government decided to channel water from all parts of Calabar through the area.
“The large drainage was supposed to empty its content somewhere behind the Cross River University of Technology, but unfortunately, the channel was never completed. The problem is not the main drain but the narrow nature of the small gutters that are supposed to channel the flood water to the major drain.”Another flood scene at Target Street, Calabar
Yet, a shop owner who sells doors at Target Street, Mr. Gabriel Mfreke, said he lost not less than N300, 000 to the recent flood disaster in the area.
Mfreke, whose fence was destroyed during one of the flooding incidents, lamented that he did not have fund to erect the fence- a situation that has made adjoining buildings exposed to regular dangers.
“The water destroyed all the goods in my shop. All my machines and other appliances were destroyed. We do not even have the money to repair the fallen fence. I lost close to N300, 000 since this latest development.
“The cause of this flood is that authorities concerned channelled the water to this street, Target Street. Before now, rain water from the Watt Market axis and Nelson Mandela Street were channelled to other drains but since this error was committed, we have known no rest,” he said.
A top engineer in the state Ministry of Works, who craved anonymity because he was not authorised to speak, said the non-utilisation of the channel constructed during the administration of ex-governor Liyel Imoke was a major problem.
He, however, denied the claims by Mrs Akpama that the drain channelisation project which empties at CRUTECH was never completed.
He said, “The Channel One project was completed but the flow is presently being hampered by activities of farmers inside CRUTECH. The Channel Two project would have helped in reducing the volume of water going into the Channel One but it has not been fully utilised.
“If properly linked, the Target Street problem will become a thing of the past. We have written proposal for it to be linked but government is yet to act on it.”
Meanwhile, Director-General of SEMA, Mr. John Inaku, had during his tour of distress areas in Calabar South said flood had killed 15 people and destroyed property in recent time.
Inaku listed most of the streets heavily affected by flooding in Calabar-South to include Goldie, Target, Yellow-Duke and Ekpo-Abasi.
According to him, no fewer than 21 communities in 12 local government areas in the state have been flooded with hundreds of residents displaced.
“Between July and August this year, we have witnessed 217 flood cases in 21 communities in 12 local government areas of the state. Sadly, 15 people have lost their lives to the tragic incidents. We are appealing to the state and Federal Government to look into the plight of these people,” he said.
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