Sorrow as windstorm wreaks havoc in Imo communities
The people of Oforola and Umuejem Obinze communities in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State are counting their losses after a devastating rainstorm wreaked havoc in their communities. DAMIAN DURUIHEOMA examines the impact of the storm which killed two persons and rendered many homeless.
Residents of Umuejem Obinze and Oforola in Owerri West council area of Imo State are not happy at the moment following a rainstorm that rendered many of them homeless.
In Oforola, four villages – Umuogide, Umueke, Amaku and Umuadu – were affected while Umuejem village was affected in Obinze with heavy impact.
While two persons were said to have died in the incident with several others injured, no fewer than 90 buildings were ravaged by the devastating storm leaving those affected in serious distress.
The people, who had thought that it was going to rain gently, as usual, were shocked when the heavens opened up and the shower accompanied by a windstorm that blew off their roofs and uprooted trees.
Four church buildings, over 70 electric poles and business outlets and a private school building in the area were also damaged by the storm.
The incident which happened on Thursday, April 8, 2021, around 2 pm, has now forced those affected by the rainstorm in the communities to either be squatting with friends or relations or living in rented apartments.
A visit to the affected communities would leave visitors worried over the incident that befell the locals.
One of the victims was an unidentified customer who came to a brewery depot at Obinze to buy drinks. He was said to be taking shelter in the business facility when the rain started as the rainstorm destroyed the building housing the depot and a nearby church.
It was gathered that the customer died before help could come his way. The number of things destroyed in the depot was huge. Several vehicles and crates containing drinks of different kinds were destroyed.
When our correspondent visited the depot, excavation was ongoing to unearth things buried by the debris.
One of the workers who refused to give his name because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said, “The rainstorm wreaked havoc. One of our customers taking shelter over there died. The warehouse was pulled out from its foundation by the rainstorm. Several goods were destroyed. We have never experienced this before.”
A resident, Mrs Eberechi Ekeigwe, who was scooping rainwater from the sitting room and other rooms including the bedroom when our correspondent visited, said her husband’s house was one of the most affected houses in Umueke village.
Taking our correspondent around the building, the young mother of two narrated how the windstorm pulled off the roof of the building and destroyed many household valuables.
She said: “It happened in the afternoon when most people were not at home. A building was pulled down by the rainstorm. Our entire house is waterlogged. We are still taking water away after the incident occurred. Our property was affected and no history that such had happened before. My mother-in-law said that it had never happened before and I thank God that my children were not around it could have been worse. They are on a holiday.”
Another victim, Mrs Immaculate Okorie, showed our correspondent how the downpour destroyed the doors and windows of her building and affected some of her household equipment.
She said she practically carried her four grandchildren together in order to save them from the destruction.
“I carried my four grandchildren on my back and all over my body because it was as if the whole world was turning upside down.
“The rainstorm almost rendered me homeless. It destroyed the windows, roofs and doors of our house. It also affected some of our property. This is saddening. Government should come to our aid,” she said.
One of the victims, an 85-year-old Mama Grace Sunday disclosed that two of her grandchildren were buried in the debris during the stormy wind.
She said: “I was inside when the wind started and our building caved in. The two children were inside too and the wind carried away the roof with the ceilings falling on top of the children. You needed to be here to appreciate the trepidation.”
However, Mama Grace expressed gratitude to God for not allowing trees uprooted by a rainstorm to kill her and her grandchildren.
The octogenarian, who now sleeps in the last room in her husband’s building spared by the rainstorm, said though she had been rendered almost homeless, she was grateful to God.
She said: “What happened that afternoon was frightening. I was at home when it started. My grandchildren were also playing around the compound. They were trapped in the fallen building but they were not badly wounded. I thank God that no life was lost. Since 1960 that I got married here, we have never experienced this kind of rainstorm before. I saw it all. It pulled roofs and buildings. The government should come to the aid of an old widow like me. The government should assist us to rebuild the house.’’
A businessman on Obinze-Umuokanne Road, Charles Anya, said the incident put fear in the residents.
According to him, “The rampaging wind destroyed about 35 electric poles along Umuokanne-Obinze road. It also claimed three lives and destroyed two church buildings and a brewery depot on this road.’’
While those who could afford it, had since commenced the rebuilding of their homes, most others, were still squatting in people’s houses as they could barely feed themselves.
A community leader in Umueke village, Oforola Udochukwu Atasie, disclosed that many displaced victims who could not find neighbours to squat with temporarily converted the community’s secondary school to their abode for the first two nights after the incident.
Atasie narrated that the rainstorm occurred in the afternoon when most people had gone out to seek daily bread, declaring that the community was in pains.
“What happened on that afternoon was unfortunate. We are lucky that the incident happened when most people were out. Many people from four villages have been rendered homeless. All we are asking for is help from the government, NGOs and institutions. The people are predominantly farmers. They don’t have money to fix their houses and start a new life.
“As you already know, the cost of materials and labour is high now. We need help. Government should give us a sense of belonging by coming to our aid in form of relief materials to cushion the excruciating effects of this difficult moment in the lives of the people of the community.’’
The member representing Owerri West state constituency in the Imo State House of Assembly and indigene of Oforola Community, Kanayo Onyemaechi, decried the damages caused by the windstorm saying, even his own house was affected by the windstorm.
He said though, he had attracted the attention of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), his worry now was how to ensure that the poor victims rebuild their houses and return back to normal life.
According to him, the damages caused by the windstorm were humongous and could only be seen.
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency said that at least 576 people were displaced, 35 houses and over 35 poles were destroyed by the windstorm in Obinze community alone.
The acting head of the Imo-Abia operations office of NEMA, Chidi Ogundu, expressed shock at the level of damage the windstorm caused in the community.
Ogundu stated: “We are conducting a joint assessment with other humanitarian agencies in Owerri to ascertain the level of damage caused by the rainstorm. It was evident from the assessment that the rainstorm wreaked havoc at Umueje village in Obinze community causing a wide range of damage. The destruction is regrettable. It is saddening that this occurred at this time.
“Residential buildings, churches, business premises and critical infrastructures were completely destroyed leaving a lot of people in agony.”
He said as of the time of the assessment by the joint team, one person died and three persons who he said sustained various degrees of injury were receiving treatment.
He said the assessment further revealed that millions of naira worth of goods and property were damaged.
Ogundu commiserated with the victims and promised to let the relevant authorities know about the incident for possible assistance.
SOURCE: THE NATION