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Aguleri: Day after Hurricane St. Joseph’s visit

The rich natural gift of the Omabala people cannot be underestimated given the fact that they are the food basket of Anambra State and even beyond. Omabala, which is the name of the biggest river in the state after the River Niger houses four council areas of Anambra East, Anambra West, Oyi and Ayamelum have since created been at the receiving end of the unkind fangs of mother nature. Every year the perennial flooding has been a common feature and inhabitants and rustic villagers would have to grapple with monumental destruction of farm settlements, ancestral homes and commercial activities.

However, it is not only flooding that could be said to be the pains of Omabala people as was depicted last weekend when windstorm struck in Aguleri community in Anambra East local government area destroying over thirty buildings. Akeze Victor Menkiti and his household have prayed fervently for the rain following the scotching hot weather and on that fateful evening when the wind began, it all appeared to Menkiti and the villages in Anambra East Local Government Area that their prayers have been answered. But to their chagrin, it wasn’t a normal wind heralding the first rain of the year but a hurricane which came with so much energy and leaving on isn’t trail heavy casualties.

Over thirty buildings were destroyed on that fateful day. Menkiti said: “We know that the early rains come with the storm but not of this kind and it all looked like the world is coming to an end and the force at which it came was unprecedented and we have to hurriedly take the children in as well as any moveable property as it carried away household items and pulled down branches of trees.

“We thank God that no life was lost because it was something else and we were taken unawares on that day.” Apart from affected residential homes, schools and hospitals were also destroyed by the rain. Also damaged is one of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps at Father Joseph Memorial High School, where over ten buildings were badly damaged by the windstorm. The students of Father Joseph High school, Aguleri had just came back from the Easter break for their academic activities only for the windstorm to destroy their hostels and other buildings in the school.

Lamenting their predicament students of the school, Master Chidera Udo and Akachukwhu Atupulazi, were in the hostel at night when a heavy wind started to blow off their roofs causing them to scamper for safety while the storm lasted.

“We were in the hostel when the breeze started; it was pushing our doors and started taking the roofs. We were all scared,” he said. The principal of the school, Rev Father Anthony Okoye described the incident as shocking and devastating, said the windstorm destroyed several buildings including refectory, teachers quarters classroom blocks, and hostels, thereby leaving more than two thousand students stranded. “I have never seen such devastating incident; almost all the buildings in the school were affected. We are really calling on the government, National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), State Emergency Management Authority (SEMA) and Churches to come to our aid.

The students will soon start exams and there are not enough classrooms for them now,” he said One of the old boys of the school, Mr Mike Meze, while thanking God that no life was lost during the windstorm said the development calls for urgent government assistance to enable the students, especially those in junior and senior secondary exam classes to resume their studies. According to him, the windstorm destroyed even the new structures that were recently erected for them by the old Boys Association.

“We are really confused, we had a plan that before the end of this year, we will build a big structure here that will also have sickbay, but look at this now, in fact, the government must act fast to rescue them,” he added. Also at Justice Chinwuba Memorial Secondary School, Aguleri, the windstorm blown off roofs thereby forcing students to study under the tree.

The principal of the school, Mr Emmanuel Anerobi appealed to spirited individuals and the government to urgently intervene and assist the school so that student can resume normal academic activities in a decent building. “My dear we are in need now, look at our classroom block, I told the contractor when he was roofing this structure that he was using substandard materials, now see it, the windstorm has carried it away,” he said. A board member in charge of Post Primary School Service Commission, Otuocha Zone, Chief Joe Enemou and the Zonal Director of the commission in the area, Mrs Ogochukwu Obi, who was on the ground to inspect the level of damage done to the schools described the incident as colossal, stating that only the federal and state governments can be able to handle the level of devastations. “We thank God no life was lost and no child was injured.

This is serious damage done to the schools and we are pleading to the government to come immediately to assist,” they said. This incident came less than six months after the member representing Anambra East and West Federal Constituency Chief Chinedu Obidigwe donated educational instructional materials and furniture to over twenty primary and secondary school in the area. The destruction also affected some of the teaching aids the lawmaker donate to the schools leaving those materials at the mercy of the rains and likely hoodlums who may capitalize on the porosity of the damaged to loot school property. After a brief inspection of the destroyed buildings and property Obidigwe consoled the victims of the windstorm promising to get the relevant authorities concerned to come to the aide of his people.

He said: “Obidigwe has also taken inventory of the buildings and other property destroyed and has already made representations for immediate response. “The incident is not only regrettable but unfortunate and I have made has made representations to the relevant authorities to salvage the situation. “I have made spirited representations before the relevant authorities on this incident and I as the member representing the two local government areas as a National Assembly member have set plans in motion to return our children back to school and rehabilitate our brothers and sisters and the aged ones.

“Even my own area was affected by the windstorm and lot destructions happened there and we shall take measures to avert a repeat of what happened last weekend. “It is a great loss for my people in Aguleri and the other villages and I am sure that both the federal government and the state government would work together to assist the affected persons especially our Public schools for the sake of our children.” Mr Chyukwudi Onyejekwe, one of the representatives of the Executive Secretary in the state, Chief Paul Odenigbo, said: “This is the biggest holding camp we have in the state for flood victims, even the blocks we use to camp them, and everything was destroyed.” According to him, they have contacted NEMA immediately to come and see things for themselves and help as the state cannot handle it alone. He also said several other residential houses and places of worship were also destroyed by the Windstorm.

Speaking with journalists, after a joint assessment of the windstorm damage with SEMA, the Zonal Coordinator of NEMA Enugu, Mr. Major Eze, said an official report would be sent to the federal government for urgent intervention to the affected victims even as he expressed shock over the level of destruction.

Continuing, Obidigwe said as this year’s planting season commences he was going to launch a serious campaign on Environmental Awareness in a bid to ensuring tree planting which would be aggressive from home to home adding that experts in Environmental protection would be drafted to educate rural dwellers on what to do. The incident has also brought to the fore the level of destruction that may trail this year’s rainy season especially the perennial flooding and according to Obidigwe proactive steps would be taken to avert so much destruction.

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