While residents of Bauchi and Azare in Bauchi State were still celebrating Eid-el-Fitri to mark the end of fasting in the month of Ramadan, little did they know that nature had prepared another thing in store for them. ISHOLA MICHAEL reports the twin disasters that turn residents into squatters and mourners.
FOR residents of Bauchi, Azare and their environs, Saturday, 16 June, 2018 was a day they will continue to remember. It was a weekend of destruction which left many hapless residents in shock and grief. In Bauchi, about 10 lives were lost to the rainstorm that also destroyed properties worth several millions of naira. In Azare, an inferno razed more than 700 shops and stalls at the town’s main market, leaving traders and residents in total agony.
The whirlwind that preceded the rainstorm in Bauchi started at about 4.00 pm that Saturday when residents were getting set to go out to continue the Eid celebrations which had started a day earlier. Thinking that the coming rain was simply a temporary setback for their celebrations, many stayed back in their homes. It was to be the undoing of some of the residents. Their houses caved in on them. The walls fell while the fast ones ran outside their homes just in time before disaster happened. The damage was extensive.
While going round the affected areas, Sunday Tribune discovered that the worst hit areas were Gombe Road, Kofar Dumi, Wuntin-Dada and Yelwa.The neighbouring environs such as Gwallaga village, Tirwun, Inkil, Miri, Dungal and Kangere were also affected. Many buildings and other structures, including schools were pulled down while farmlands were submerged.
Not done with the havoc, the storm also uprooted trees and dropped them on houses and cars, smashing windscreens to smithereens.
Some of the victims, while speaking with Sunday Tribune lamented their fate, calling on the state government and kind-hearted individuals to immediately come to their aid. Many of the victims are now squatting with friends and relations.
Tunde Oyewole is one of them. The roof of his Wuntin-Dada house was completely blown off. Thankfully none of his family members was injured. His wife’s shop was not spared as it was completely destroyed.
Another victim who is also squatting with neighbours is Mrs Janet Hassan, whose house, apart from having its roof blown off, had part of its wall destroyed. None of her family members could continue to stay in the building so they had to accept their fate and seek temporary accommodation.
As for John Chukwu, a spare parts dealer along Kobi Street, it was a disaster in which he lost valuables worth several millions of naira, a situation which he said has now set him back financially. His labour of many years had simply vanished. He is currently looking up to government and other well-meaning individuals to help him get back on his feet.
It was a more pathetic story for Nuhu Umar, a resident of Kofar Dumi who like others was in the Sallah mood but became bereaved as he lost two of his family members in the disaster. According to him, it was a least expected tragedy, but he has since moved on with his life.
“We were celebrating the end of the Ramadan fasting when the unfortunate thing happened, but as a Muslim, I have accepted it as an act of Allah. He alone can give and take life at any time He so wishes,” Umar said.
At the Bauchi State owned Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic (ATAP) many structures such as the 1000-seater lecture hall, ICT, CBT, Administrative block, ATAP FM studio as well as five female hostels were destroyed, a development that has partially affected academic activities in the institution just as the students were preparing for their first semester exams which the school authority has assured will go on as scheduled.
As of the time of filing this report, victims were still counting their losses and searching for missing relatives, particularly children who ran outside when the wind blew off the roofs of their homes.
The state has hardly got over the havoc wreaked by the rainstorm when the news of the fire disaster in Azare came. The governor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, was still commiserating with his people in a broadcast after an on-the-spot assessment of the communities affected by the windstorm, unknown to him another part of the state was already on fire.
The devastation in Bauchi was replicated in Azare main market, but this time it was not a rainstorm it was a raging fire which consumed more than 700 shops and stalls, as traders lost goods worth millions of naira. The fire was said to have started following a power surge from one of the electrical points in the market and later spread to the shops. Efforts by fire men to put the fire out met with series of hitches, including the fact that some of the items in the shops were highly inflammable, thus helping the fire to spread.
Abass Danjuma, a trader at the market told Sunday Tribune that the fire started from one of the shops when electricity was restored after an outage and spread to adjoining shops where clothes and foodstuffs were sold. He believed these products aggravated the fire, hence the difficulty in controlling it by those who had gathered before men of the fire brigade arrived. The victims, whose hopes were lifted, were left bewildered when the firemen eventually arrived but could not get their vehicle to the specific spot that would help it to subdue the fire.
Another trader, Mohammed Garba, who told Sunday Tribune that he lost everything to the inferno, said he has accepted his fate. He believed the incident was “an act of Allah who has destined that the disaster will happen at the time it came.” According to Garba, he would require assistance from Nigerians and government to be able to move on with his life.
The governor give such assurance when he visited Azare last Monday to inspect the damage. Accompanied by the Emir of Katagum, Alhaji Umar Farouk, the governor promised to reconstruct and modernise the structures, blaming lack of access roads for the inability of fire fighting vehicles to put out the fire on time.
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President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday visited the state to condole the people on their losses. “I am here to commiserate with you over the loss you recorded during the weekend,” he had said. “I want to assure you that the federal government will stand with you through this trying time. For those of you that are here, please take this message to your people. Tell them that they are in my thoughts and prayers.”
Apart from the victims who suffered direct losses, other residents in Bauchi also have their own share of the misfortune. Sunday Tribune investigations revealed that the storm destroyed more than 300 electricity poles in Bauchi, leaving residents in total darkness, and several businesses paralysed. The Bauchi Regional Director of Jos Electricity Distribution Company (JEDC), Hafiz Sale Hassan, who was represented at a media briefing on the disaster by the Technical Director of the Company, Mr Abdullahi Hussaini, said that apart from the destroyed electric poles, other equipment like armoured and aluminium cables, insulators, communication masts, among others, were also badly affected. He assured residents that the company was working tirelessly to restore power supply as soon as possible.
The Permanent Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Shehu Ningi, disclosed that the agency was still assessing the situation in order to be able to provide appropriate relief for the victims assuring that as soon as the assessment was concluded, relief would be delivered.
As it were it will take some time before residents of both Bauchi and Azare get back to their feet, given the extent of damage done to infrastructure and homes, which is a pointer to the level of readiness by emergency management agencies in the country. Though most Nigerians don’t wait on governments to get their lives back from disasters, for residents of Bauchi and Azare they could do with some government assistance whenever it comes.
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