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How flood, boat accident killed dozens in Anambra

It was traumatic for the people of Ogbaru Local Government Council of Anambra State when a boat reportedly carrying about 85 passages capsized and killed…

It was traumatic for the people of Ogbaru Local Government Council of Anambra State when a boat reportedly carrying about 85 passages capsized and killed 76.

This kind of tragic incident, which occurred at Umunnankwo last week Friday, had never happened in the community. And this is coming when the locals have been submerged in flood, leaving them with little or no sources of livelihood.

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A substantial part of the local government area is currently under water and the residents have relocated to a displaced camp and other communities. 

Traumatised by the incident, the locals have been lamenting over the development.

One of the residents of the community, Chuks Ofodile, said the incident was unprecedented.

He said that even the 2012 flood was not as devastating as the current one, which has claimed many lives.

He called on the government at all levels to come to their aid as the affected families are seriously in pains and need assistance.

The Executive Secretary of the Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Chief Paul Odenigbo, told our correspondent that the information available to him was that 85 people were in the boat but only nine were rescued.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Disaster Response Unit (DRU) of the military said search and rescue operations had commenced. 

Meanwhile, a traditionalist, Ezendu Onyensom, who claimed to be a marine chief priest, said the mishap was caused by a mermaid, popularly known as mammy water in local parlance

“We did some consultations with the queen (mammy water) and she told us that she was angry with the state government for refusing to do a major road in the area. She said the bad road made most people in the locality travel by river, a situation that disturbs her peace. She said the river was meant to be quiet for aquatic life to thrive.

Residents paddle through the flood

 

“We are looking for ways to appease the queen to avoid more mishaps because she threatened that more harm would occur on that route of the river if the government refused to do the road,” he said

Onyensom said traditional worshippers in the area would want to get in touch with both the local and state governments to relay their message.

But the Chairman of the Transition Committee of the local government, Paschal Aniegbunam, disclosed that over 30 victims of the boat mishap had been rescued.

He said the casualty figures churned out were fallacious, adding that he was not contacted.

Aniegbunam said the speed boat involved in the mishap could not contain up to 50 passengers, and that the incident was not a result of flood but human error as the rider was inexperienced.

He disclosed that the boat owner was not available when passengers came and demanded that his brother should ferry them.

He said, “Fate failed them when the boat engine developed a fault and the young lad, who tried effortlessly to restart the engine, could not control the waves, which pushed the boat and it hit Osamala bridge and capsized.

“The young man who drove the boat was not the main person, but on that fateful day, his brother was not around and the passengers, who were so large in number, persuaded him and he decided to carry them.

“Not quite three minutes after they took off, the engine developed a fault, and because he is not conversant with it, he tried to start the engine; and there were not enough paddles for them to navigate to the ground.

“When the boat capsized, people who were standing on the road jumped into the water to do the rescue.

“Over 30 persons have been rescued while search continues for other persons.”

Sympathising with families of victims, the Anambra State governor, Professor Charles Soludo, said some people were still unaccounted for, noting that search was ongoing.

“This development is still a shock to the government and good people of Anambra State. I sympathise with the families of people involved,” Soludo said.

Also condoling Governor Soludo over the incident, a former governor of the state, Chief Willie Obiano said, “I urge the government to take steps to tackle the emergency head-on.

“I call on the federal government to offer leadership at this point to mitigate the disaster by ensuring the speedy release of ecological funds to support the state in tackling the emergency.

“Diligent intervention by all stakeholders will no doubt reduce the burden imposed by this disaster, while deliberate efforts must begin in the implementation of a permanent solution.

“I share the grief of victims. They should endeavour to follow government’s wise counsel to evacuate to safety until the floodwaters recede.

“May we remember those that have so far died as a result of the flooding raving our state over the past couple of weeks in our prayers.” 

Meanwhile, a rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), has called for enquiries into the circumstances that led to the incident.

A statement signed by the chairman, Board of Trustees of the group, Mr Emeka Umeagbalasi, noted that the incident was beyond the issuance of press releases by the government to condemn it.

“The tragic incident is beyond mere statements to express sadness or shock, as well as extension of condolences to the bereaved families. Losing 81 people in Anambra in a day in such preventable boat mishap is enough to fly flags at half mast or declare a state of mourning and public holiday if the authorities of the Government of Anambra State are truly sensitive to the safety of the citizenry and conscious of the sanctity of human lives. 

“The incident also ought to invoke the setting up of ‘expert enquiry’ to ascertain what truly happened, how it happened, why it happened, where it happened, when it happened and who died and who survived.

“The incident would have been prevented if the failed portions of the Atani-Ogwuikpele and the Ozubulu-Atani roads had been rehabilitated and proper water channels provided and waterways unblocked. 

“It was the inability of the government to ensure the above that made it possible for River Niger to burst into the left side of residential areas of Ogbaru interior and urban, blocking and cutting off vehicular movements along the Atani-Ogwuikpele road and forcing most of the passengers to use boats as the only alternative means to their destinations,” the group stated.

The group called for the rehabilitation of the roads linking the areas, saying that doing so could avert such occurrences in future as the people would use the roads instead of water, especially during this period of flood when water travels are dangerous.

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