Seventy-six people have died when their boat capsized while trying to escape dangerously high floods that have inundated parts of southern Nigeria.
The boat carrying more than 80 people capsized on Friday in the southeastern state of Anambra as people desperately tried to escape floods that had risen as high as house roofs.
Recent floods in the area had displaced up to 600,000 peopleaccording to the country’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Nigeria’s flood crisis has been catastrophic this year, killing at least 300 people and affecting more than half a million people, NEMA said last month. NEMA warned of more catastrophic floods for states located along the Niger and Benue rivers, explaining that three of Nigeria’s overflowing reservoirs were expected to overflow.
The Anambra tragedy follows the devastating aftermath of a flood that swept through swathes of neighboring north-central Kogi state a week ago, leaving buildings submerged under water that rose to levels not seen in a decade, according to officials of the Kogi Red Cross Society.
At least six people, including a small child, were reported to have died in Kogi’s worst-hit Ibaji district, which the state’s governor, Yahaya Bello, said was “100% underwater.”
Bello described the flooding as a “humanitarian tragedy” in a speech on October 1.
Kogi is about 200 kilometers from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Kogi’s capital, Lokoja, is the meeting point of West Africa’s largest rivers, the Niger and the Benue.
“When the two big rivers meet in Lokoja, they overwhelmed the banks of the Lower Niger River, hence the flood,” environmentalist Simi Adeodun told CNN.
“Not only Lokoja is flooded right now, but most of the coastal communities along the banks of River Benue in Nasarawa State…and River Niger, which crosses the border between Kwara and Niger states, are also under water.” he said.
That Kogi Red Cross Society said: “Many people have been rendered homeless in Lokoja … as houses were inundated by floods,” adding that some major roads in the capital had been flooded.
“The roads served as a link between the north central and southern parts of the country,” it said. “And many passengers were stranded.”
The Red Cross told CNN that some of the dead in Ibaji also died in a separate boat accident while canoeing through floodwaters.
Bello said nine areas along Niger and Benue were affected.
“Ibaji [district] is almost 100% under water, while the rest ranges from 30% up… We therefore have a grave and humanitarian tragedy on our hands, but I want to assure every person, family and community that has been affected that they are not alone , and helping is coming,” he said.
Some travelers said they were trapped for more than a day in flooded areas.
Okeke Grace Eche told CNN about her experience traveling from Lokoja to Abuja at the height of the October 3 flood.
“It was the scariest two nights of my life,” she says of a two-day ordeal for a trip that would normally only take a few hours.
Eche arrived in Lokoja at 4pm on Monday (October 3) and told CNN that she “noticed a long line of trailers and vans carrying heavy equipment and animals.”
“I had hoped it was normal traffic caused by a fallen trailer, but we weren’t ready for the following nights,” she said.
“I spent my first night in the middle of the bush … I saw firsthand, houses, gas stations, vast land under water, women, children and their husbands building makeshift paper bag houses along the road,” she told CNN.
In many parts of the northern state, locals taxi through their flooded communities in canoes.
Abdullahi Abubakar, a Red Cross official in Kogi is concerned that the use of canoes could lead to more fatalities.
“It’s dangerous, especially for those who don’t know how to swim,” Abubakar told CNN.
Abubakar said many displaced people sought shelter with relatives and good Samaritans in neighboring towns that were not affected by the flood, which he added was gradually subsiding.
Kogi Governor Bello, who visited ravaged communities by canoe, said he was working to reduce the impact of the flood while urging those affected to move to designated camps for displaced persons in the state.
According to NEMA, the release of excess water from a dam in neighboring Cameroon was bound to “complicate” Nigeria’s already catastrophic flood crisis.
“The Lagdo dam operators in the Republic of Cameroon have commenced the release of excess water from the reservoir by September 13, 2022. We are aware that the released water is cascading down to Nigeria through the Benue River and its tributaries thereby flooding communities that has already been affected by heavy rainfall,” NEMA said in a September 19 statement.
“The released water complicates the situation further downstream as Nigeria’s inland reservoirs … are also expected to overflow between now and end in October,” it said, adding that: “This will have serious implications for frontline states and communities along the rivers in Niger and Niger. Benue.”
Kogi and Anambra were among 13 Nigerian states expected to be inundated by “the combined waters of rivers Niger and Benue as they flow into the region,” NEMA said.
Many communities in Kogi are now under water.
Flooding in Kogi this year had a more severe impact on communities than what was recorded during the last major flood in 2012, Abubakar told CNN.
According to Nigeria’s National Inland Waterways Authority, the 2012 flood rose to the level of 12.84 meters while the most recent flood was measured at 13.22 metres.
But Kogi is not the only state affected by the devastating impact of the recent flood.
In neighboring Nasarawa state, which is also struggling with floods cascading down the River Benue, farmers are counting their losses from ravaged farmlands.
In northeastern Adamawa, more people are dying from flood-related incidents, NEMA said. About 37 people have died in the current rainy season and more than 170,000 have been displaced, the agency said listed.
Many parts of Nigeria are subject to annual flooding with coastal cities like Lagos even more vulnerable to seasonal flooding.
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