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Katsina flooding: Residents’ agonising encounter with deaths, destruction

Katsina flooding: Residents’ agonising encounter with deaths, destruction

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Olaide Oyelude, Katsina

Attairu Abubakar was absent-minded with heavy thoughts weighing down his heart. For several minutes, he gazed into space, completely unaware of what was going on around him. When he eventually returned to consciousness upon calling him by name thrice, he let out a grunt. A successful farmer, he had watched helplessly as his only four-month-old baby and all the wealth he had toiled to amass wasted away in the overnight flooding that ravaged his community in Jibiya, Katsina State earlier in the week.

“It was the cries of neighbours that woke me and my wife up, only for me to find out that our house was already floating. Everywhere was flooded while some of our neigbours, who were brave enough, waded through the water. We were advised not to go through the back of the compound as part of it where my livestock were kept had already collapsed. All my livestock were carried away by the water.

“My wife and I initially held each other by the hands and were wading through the flood as instructed by the neighbours. She carried our baby on her right hand because she feared the baby might be suffocated by water if she strapped her to the back.

“There was this sudden rush of water which snatched away the baby from her hand and at that point, I can’t explain how we went in our separate ways. I can’t explain how I made it. I later heard that some of our neighbours came to my rescue when my wife raised the alarm. By the time I came around in the morning, I only saw my wife stooping beside me and we were surrounded by neighbours,” the 34-year-old recalled tearfully during an encounter with our correspondent at Muhammadu Rabiu Model Primary School Complex, Jibiya, where tens of those displaced by the flood were camped.

The farmer had thought the cloudy weather was a harbinger of a blessed rain as he retired to bed with his wife around 10pm on Sunday. He had no inkling that a colossal loss would befall him some hours later – in the dead of the night. “We slept without any problem, thanking God for the rain that was about to fall. I became aware of the flood around 3am. Everything I had is gone. The flood also carried away the three motorcycles I used for my business,” he added, burying his head in sadness in-between his palms.

A businessman and traveller, the disaster was also a great tragedy on 28-year-old Isah Yahaya while he was on a trip. He had never failed to wow his loving wife with gifts – both edible and inedible – he bought from the trip.

After several days on his agrarian business trip, he returned to his hometown in Jibiya Sunday night, but the downpour and its attendant flooding could not allow him access to his residence. He passed the night at a nearby hotel and set out quickly at dawn strapping a bag containing some gifts he had bought for his charming 20-year-old wife on the shoulder.

“As I was approaching home, I saw neighbours surrounding me. They were persuading me to sit down. They later told me that my house was gone in the flood. When I inquired about my wife, Umi, they started gazing at one another. My elder brother was asked to break the news of my wife’s death to me. The shock of the news made me to collapse. When I was later resuscitated, I asked to see her corpse. My family kept on assuring me that they would search for it, but till now, the corpse has not been found,” Yahaya, who is also accommodated in the school complex, explained. “I often travel to other parts of the country, buying and selling agricultural items. At times, I spend weeks outside Jibiya. I would buy a lot of things for Umi on my way back. I cannot believe she would not wear all the dresses I wanted to present to her that Monday,” he added in a sombre expression.

A 64-year-old man, Lawan Ibrahim was lying seriously ill on a bed inside one of the classrooms in the school converted to sickbay. The sexagenarian could neither talk nor hear while his wife, Hassanah, told Saturday PUNCH how the gravity of the loss the family suffered in the incident worsened an ailment he had been battling.

Hassanah stated that their house and other properties were destroyed by the flood, adding that it took the kind gestures of their neighbours to rescue Ibrahim from the jaws of death.

The woman, who spoke in Hausa language, through an interpreter, said, “Ibrahim had been sick before the flooding. But when the flood came and we lost everything, he suffered partial stroke. He could not talk and hear. It is our neighbours who helped me carry him from the flood which engulfed our house around 3am. Someone here (the school complex) gave him the clothes he wore.

“About three years ago, our house collapsed and we rebuilt it by ourselves but this time around, the whole house and our properties were washed away by the flood. Since we arrived here on Monday, he has neither talked nor heard what people say. But a doctor comes here randomly to attend to him.”

For 57-year-old housewife, Hajiya Hurera Abdullahi, she remained grateful to God for sparing her life and those of her six children even though they no longer have a shelter they could call theirs.

“Our house collapsed and neighbours rescued my six children and me from the rubbles. Apart from the house, my three goats, all our food items and clothes were trapped. But we thank Almighty Allah for saving our lives. If I were to estimate the loss, it would be about N2.5m,” she explained.

Shaibu Makau is a 50-year-old successful trader who deals in roasted beef (Mai-Suya). He lost two houses, two goats, two motorcycles, clothing and foodstuffs to the flood. Makau and his family currently stay at the school complex.

“I could not retrieve anything. In fact, I had to swim to safety and assisted some of my children to swim to do same,” he added.

To truly appreciate how harsh fate has been to scores of people displaced by the flood, one needs to visit the school complex which Katsina State Government had converted to a temporary accommodation. At the camp, one would see individuals who, hitherto had two or three houses, but now struggle for a bed space due to no fault of theirs.

At intervals, tales of how the heavy flooding were shared and snatched children from their parents were shared the ambience. And the shambolic assemblage of flood victims on the school premises, was indeed, a pathetic sight to behold.

The school complex consists of four blocks of a-two storey building with a large compound. Although sources put the figure of those inside the complex at 5,000, the Executive Secretary of the state Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Aminu Waziri, said 1,746 had been registered as of Wednesday.

Expectedly, the available amenities in the school complex have been over-stretched, more so when the amenities were actually meant for students and the school staff.

Saturday PUNCH observed that two of the classrooms had been converted to sickbay and general medical room. The sickbay is meant for those whose cases require admission in hospitals or urgent medical attention. At the general medical room, people were seen queuing for analgesic drugs.

Aside from 64-year-old Ibrahim with a partial stroke, two women were seen sleeping on mats at the sickbay. A staff member of SEMA, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the women were being monitored by doctors for stress and fatigue.

It was further observed that food was also being prepared for the displaced at a section of the school.

Our correspondent learnt that two medical doctors had been detailed to attend to those with health issues while the efforts of the doctors were complemented by members of the Red Cross stationed inside the complex. It was gathered that those whose health challenges could not be handled at the camp, were referred to the nearby general hospital in Jibiya.

Although drugs and other medical items common in a standard hospital were not seen in the sickbay, a medical doctor, whom our correspondent met on duty, said the nearby general hospital would come to the rescue in case of any emergency.

Further investigation revealed that none of those who sustained injuries in the incident was on admission at the sickbay. It was learnt that many of those injured were being treated by their families.

Authorities of the General Hospital in Jibiya, however, said no injured victim was brought to the hospital for treatment. Further checks at other private hospitals in the town to get injured persons on admission also proved abortive.

Although the psychological trauma of suddenly becoming refugees in their own town was visible on the faces of the victims, many of them hoped to get succour from government and kind-hearted wealthy individuals.

A trader, Hajiya Samiyat Audu said, “Inasmuch as we are grateful for what the government is doing for us now in terms of welfare, home will be home. I only appeal to the government to come to our aid again so that we can go back and live the life we were used to.

“Some of us here cannot even go out if we want to as all our clothes were gone in the flood. We got the clothes we are putting on from good Samaritans.”

A 65-year-old technician, Mallam Muhammadu Sani, who claimed to have lost three houses as well as livestock at Mai Kwari, a neigbouring community, also pleaded for government assistance.

He said, “I lost property worth over N3m to the flood. My concern is going back to my business. The sudden change in life has psychologically affected me here and I pray that government quickly comes to my aid so that I can leave here and begin my life again.”

On Tuesday evening, relief materials, including clothes, household items, mats and mattresses were seen being given to the people while a trailer load of foodstuffs – mainly grains – was seen discharging its contents inside the complex shortly before Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s visit.

Sympathisers have also been visiting the people from the town with some of them bringing foods and clothes for them.

Theatre of havocs

The extent of destruction done by the flood is better appreciated when one visits the affected areas which include Kwata, Dantudu, Sabuwar, Tukare, Tsohuwar Tukare and Ungwar Mai Kwari. In these areas, virtually all the buildings were affected.

Saturday PUNCH observed that houses in those neighbourhoods were either partially collapsed, or completely swept away. Many schools located in the areas were also on holidays as their buildings which were completely submerged during the flooding were still full of mud, hence the environment was no longer conducive to learning.

Mai Kwari Primary School and Madrisat Madinatu Sati Watalamizi, Makori, were still under lock because of the disaster. It was also observed that houses affected by the flood were on both sides of the drainage channels meant to discharge water into the Gulbi River.

Sources at Jibiya revealed that the Sunday overnight flooding was actually caused by water flow from the river during the downpour. Water from the river was reportedly overflowing to the surrounding areas and communities through the drainage which was, in the first instance, supposed to be discharging its contents into the river.

“The result was the unprecedented flooding which led to huge loss of lives and property,” one of the sources added.

The District Head of Jibia, Alhaji Rabe Rabi’u, said, aside from loss of lives and property, over 260 cows, sheep and goats were killed by the flood.

I’ve never seen a disaster like this – Katsina governor

Governor Aminu Masari, Kastina State at a press conference on the incident on Monday in Katsina, said 44 lives were lost, while 20 others were missing. He said the flood also destroyed over 500 houses.

The governor said, “I can say that I have never seen this kind of disaster in my life. The water level is above 10 feet height and it is a purely natural disaster as the government had constructed drainages that were emptying into the river. The water from the river moved in a reversed order and came back to the town, causing the flooding.”

Masari, who addressed the press conference shortly after inspecting all the areas affected by the flood, disclosed that he had already directed the state Ministry of Environment to consider the possibility of diverting the drainage from directly emptying into the river.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had also visited the affected communities on Tuesday, assuring the victims of compensation by the government.

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