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A rain of grief

Typical of a Sahel region where meteorologists say rainfall is expected very late due to its high temperature and proximity to desert, this year’s rainy…

Typical of a Sahel region where meteorologists say rainfall is expected very late due to its high temperature and proximity to desert, this year’s rainy season, like previous times, didn’t commence on time in Yobe State, and, out of nervousness, the majority of the people, who are subsistence farmers, anxiously prayed for downpour from the skies. When there were signs on the atmosphere that it was going the rain recently, many persons were thrown into celebration even before the downpour, but when the rains finally arrived, what they thought was the sign of relief turned into agony, as many families, rather than going to their farms, had to remain behind to either share their grief or count their loses.

Schools, farmlands, mosques, churches, shops, among others were not spared by the ravaging storm which also led to the death of a middle-aged woman, resident of Dagare Village in Nangere local government of the state.

Fifty-year-old Jummai Shehu Isa, who left behind her husband and five children, was said to have died after sustaining many injuries when the mud wall of her room collapsed and buried her in the ground.

In Fadawa and Langawa villages, all in Nangere local government, the situation was also pathetic as many houses were uprooted by the windstorm which many people described as ‘hurricane’. Three other persons sustained serious injuries in Garin Mara, Inusa Saleh, a resident of the village said.

In Fika local government, dozens of houses, local silos for keeping farm produce and market stalls, electrical poles and trees were also destroyed by the windstorm in Kukawa, Garin Buba, Siminti and Fadawa.  

An eye witness said all the damages were done within the twinkle of an eye because the rains which came in the afternoon lasted for just little over 18 minutes even though it left a permanent scar in the hearts of many people.

“I am over sixty years old but I have never a tumultuous scene like this one. The rains came around 1.00pm, but due to the intensity of the wind, the whole of our village was enveloped in darkness,” Habu Mai Rake, who was visibly shocked, said.

Also shocked by the sad incident, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, along with the secretary to the state government, Engineer Babagoni Machina, head of service, Mallam Ibrahim Abdurrahman, and all top government functionaries visited Dagare village and sympathized with the people.

The governor and his entourage also offered prayers for the soul of the deceased and directed the director of the State Emergency Relief Agency (SERA), Alhaji Gambo Bizi, and his staff to remain behind and take record of the loses with a view to providing relief materials to all the victims.

“This is a sad event, though it is an act of God… I want to call on you to take heart, we also pray that nothing like this would happen again,” Gaidam told the victims who were seen removing some of their belongings from collapsed houses.

In Dagare village, which is situated about 130 kilometres away from Damaturu, the state capital, many people, including women and children, sustained injuries. As at the time the governor visited, some of them had received medical attention and discharged from the hospital, while those with critical injuries were admitted into in the village’s cottage hospital for supervision.

Our correspondent who visited the village was told by residents that the heavy downpour which was preceded  by windstorm took them unawares.  “You know, this is the beginning of the raining season and normally the rains come with heavy windstorm because of the prevailing desert encroachment in this part of the country,” Musa Ali, a 45-year-old resident of the Dagare whose roof was blown off by the wind, said.

He said he had lost all his belongings and those of his two wives and children to the ravaging rainfall. “You need not to be told that we are in distress because the whole village is sacked, you can see the end of the village from the main road because most of the houses have been washed away,” he lamented.

Some members of the communities were, however, elated following the distribution of relief materials to them by SERA, an agency under the direct supervision of the secretary to the state government.

Gambo Bizi, the director of the agency said about 175 people in Dagare, Fadawa and Langawa were given bags of rice, vegetable oil and cash to enable them erect structures for their families though, he said, the gesture was not to compensate them.

Bizi said, in other communities, building materials including zinc, timber, cement, among others, were given to victims because, according to him, it is the responsibility of the state government to assist its people. He said many communities in Chirokusko, Gujba, Gulani, Mafa, Gashua, Yunusari and Babban Gida, which were afflicted by disaster, had received immediate assistance from the agency.

He, however, called for attitudinal change especially on how people destroy trees indiscriminately in order to get woods for cooking. “Trees are like shelter for the houses and the earth, the more you cut them down, the more vulnerable our environment becomes,” he noted.

Malama Inna Mai Kosai, a 75-year-old woman in Dagare village has called on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to follow the footsteps of the state government and assist them with relief materials, stressing that many of them had been forced to relocate to nearby villages in search of shelter, food, medicine and clothing.