Since July 2016, devastating floods have affected many of the states in the country, causing property damage and loss of lives. The states that are worst hit include Kaduna, Ebonyi and Adamawa. It could be recalled that the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) in collaboration with the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) warned of potential flooding in 11 states across the country between August and October this year.
It was against this background that the Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) in conjunction with trainers from the Southeast Zonal National Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) held a capacity building workshop on ‘Basic Skills in Search and Rescue,’ where at least 170 persons received training in search and rescue operations, as part of the contingency plans for the predicted 2016 flooding.
According to SEMA director, Chukwudi Onyejekwe, who coordinated the workshop on behalf of the Executive Secretary of SEMA, the directive to build community resilience for disaster risk reduction was from the state governor, Willie Obiano.
He said that it was to ensure that volunteer workers from the 21 local government areas of the state got needed training, to ensure there would be enough hands to tackle any unforeseen situation.
The volunteer workers in Otuocha, Anambra East Local Government Area, are also expected to gain knowledge needed to assist the floodprone rural dwellers ahead of the speculated flooding in order that no life will be lost.
In a simulated training at Otuocha, an emergency situation-like mood was activated, with sound of the
ambulance rattling the atmosphere, while emergency management officials rallied around to assist the supposed victims.
From the outdoor-dramatised emergency response display to the indoor actual workshop, the crux of the matter was to train the 170 volunteer workers from the 21 local government areas of the state on community resilience and disaster risk reduction with the use of modern equipment.
The director of SEMA, Mr. Chukwudi Onyejekwe, said that the training was a paradigm shift in disaster management which had moved from emergency response to disaster risk reduction.
The NEMA trainer, Ifeyinwa Onyia, who also represented the South- East zonal coordinator, urged the
participants to follow instructions and learn every skill taught them. The technical session was handled by other NEMA trainers who explained the function of each of the modern equipment used for search and rescue operation.
The technicalities in the use of the state-of-the-art ambulance were also explained to the participants, as a mobile clinic that sustains a victim before being taken to the hospital. For one of the participants Eucharia Attah, the training was a good development, as the use of advanced equipment in disaster risk reduction produce best results in rescue operations.
The idea of bringing rescue operation training to the rural communities is one that will not only help in the event of flooding, but one that will also assist in reducing disaster rate in different emergency situations.
Following the prediction by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency that some states in Nigeria would be devastated by flood, the identified states, apart from Anambra, are taking precautions to guard against the disaster. Flood has already displaced some people from their homes in Kaduna and some other states in the northern part of the country.
According to report from the Republic of Niger, the rise in the water level of its river has shown that any time from now Nigeria may suffer severe floods comparable to what was experienced in many states in 2012. The 2012 floods in Nigeria began in early July. According to NEMA, the flood killed 363 people and displaced over 2.1 million others as of November 5, 2012. The agency also stated that 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states were affected by the floods.
It described the floods as the worst in 40 years, adding that it affected an estimated total of seven million people. The estimated damage and losses caused by the floods were put at N2.6 trillion.
To avert a reoccurrence, NEMA recently advised communitiesalong the River Niger to evacuate immediately to safer grounds over the likelihood of floods that may occur at any moment from now, as it noted that there had been intense rainfall as well as rises in water levels across the country.
The Director-General, NEMA, Mr. Sani Sidi, who gave the advice said the agency had received alerts of the flood from information given by the authorities in the Republic of Niger that the present water level in the river had reached a point that might result in the flood that could be compared with the unfortunate experience of 2012.
He said, “Niger Basin Authority notified Nigeria that rainy season,which started in the Middle Niger (Burkina Faso and Niger Republic) in June, 2016, has led to a gradual rise of the level of River Niger in Niamey, Niger Republic. This high level of water in Niger Republic is already spreading to Benin Republic, and invariably, to Nigeria.”
Sidi further said the level of water in all the hydrological monitoring stations across the country, as alarming situation that requires the prompt and coordinated action of all governments and stakeholders.
“If the heavy rainfall continues in intensity and duration within these regions of the River Niger, it is imminent that flood situation similar to that of the year 2012 may occur,” he said.
The NEMA boss called on stakeholders to take necessary actions in line with their various mandates, adding that states and local governments were to ensure observance with the threat in order to avert imminent loss of lives and properties that might certainly arise in the event of severe floods. Sidi identified the states along the River Niger belts as being the most vulnerable as well as those along its major tributaries that includes Benue River belts, the confluence states and downstream to the Atlantic Coast.
The agency’s zonal and operation offices, he said, had been instructed to continue with advocacy visit to the state governments and also urged the state to utilise the flood vulnerability maps given to them earlier by NEMAto identify safer grounds for temporary shelters in time of evacuation as well as reviewing all their contingency plans.