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2018: More of nature’s fury than clement weather

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AS the year 2018 draws to close, the environmental landscape throbbed and burned with flurry of events across the globe. Tales of nature seething with fury appears to overwhelm the earth. Amidst that comes cheery news of an iconic landmark that stands as world’s tallest statue; The “Statue of Unity”   

Billed as a tourist attraction, the 182m (600ft) high structure in the western state of Gujarat in India is a bronze-clad tribute to independence, leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The statue is nearly twice as tall as New York’s Statue of Liberty and three times taller than Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It towers above the Spring Temple Buddha in China which at 128m, was previously the tallest in the world.

Earlier in the year, in her on-going effort to beautify Awka, the Anambra State capital, the state government released standard ‘acceptable fencing design for all corporate, private and government institutions on the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway. According the state government, it serves to enhance the physical appearance of structures to promote beautiful environment in line with the state’s vision to achieve ultra-modern and aesthetically developed state.

On the adverse side, nature lashed our environment; raging wild fires that scorched thousands of acres, deluges of violent rains, tropical storms that caused mass flooding or forceful movements in the earth crust, in some instances, accompanied with death tolls and property damage to our communities, leaving its wake political, social, and economic turmoil.

The year began with the January 1, 2018 Bolivia floods. The flood caused by torrential rains affected 17,000 families and  had 337 homes destroyed. The trains which began with greater rigor from a moderate to strong intensity damaged the main roads where agricultural products are transported.

Five days later in Papua, New Guinea, Kadovar Island Volcano erupted, with lava covering 50-60 percent of the island. The eruption forced the entire population to be relocated to Brup Brup Island, prompting an immediate need for food, water, shelter and clothing for the evacuees.

In the same first week of January, cold wave swept Morocco.   Temperature which are generally below normal in that period of year, rained heavy snowfalls that affected the High Atlas and the Middle Atlas with temperatures as low as minus 5 degree Celsius, where the average temperatures in January hovers around 18 degrees Celsius. In the interior of the country, several roads were cut due to snow, people find themselves isolated, roads were cut that farmers could no longer feed livestock.

In Philippines, the Mount Mayon erupted in the second week of January. Two lava collapse events occurred in the volcano, producing rockfall and small-volume pyroclastic density currents.  In the southwest of the volcano, ashfalls was reported in 29 villages. The number of people affected by the eruption of Mount Mayon rose to over 90,000 by February 26, with Almost 62,000 staying in 57 evacuation centres.

From the United States was news of the California wildfires that occurred in July. The fire, which affected much of the state, environmental experts said, was the seventh most destructive fire in California history, caused by Record-high temperatures combined with dry vegetation. According to reports, firefighters from 16 states joined the containment efforts, making the total amount of firefighting personnel 12,000. The fire incident recorded eight deaths, scorched 57,846 acres, and destroyed 300,000 total acres across the state.

In September, Hurricane Florence that affected United States’ East Coast left in its wake, more than 45 dead.  The hurricane was caused by naturally occurring weather patterns. The hurricane struck primarily the Carolina states.

The Carolinas suffered a 24-hour cycle of torrential rain and hurricane winds that measured up to 90 mph leading to massive floods in the areas. A week after the hurricane, major highways remained flooded and closed. Over 620,000 people lost power supply the two states.

It was the case of earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia in September 28, where a  7.5 magnitude earthquake, caused by shifting of tectonic plates set off the tsunami, which detector buoys did not catch.  The quake damaged more than 70,000 houses, forcing tens of thousands of people to live in shelters and tents. The island of Sulawesi, mainly its central province, Palu, was worst hit. The quake cut off power supplies, which is why many people did not receive a warning about the incoming tsunami, which had waves up to 10 feet high.

The incident recorded 2,256 dead, the causalities also include 10,679 people injured, while1,075 people were declared missing with thousands more unaccounted for, and over 206,524 others made refugees. In the hard-hit, neighborhoods of Petobo and Balaroa more than 3,000 homes were damaged or sucked into deep mud. Government officials say some 1,200 inmates escaped from three prisons in the region as the quake struck.

Wildfires once again fire blazed the state of California in the   United States. The fire, which broke out in early November, peaked in between eight and 25 November. The three wildfires; Camp fire in Paradise; the Hill fire in the Santa Rosa Valley, and the Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed thousands of homes.

The worst of the three, the Camp fire, which killed 88 people, completely devastated the town of Paradise, causing all 27,000 residents to evacuate their homes, besides scorching over 150,000 acres. Reports had that the Camp fire alone made it the deadliest (and most destructive) fire in California history.

In Nigeria, floods caused by rains and overflowing dams wreck havoc. Most flood victims paid dearly for not heeding warnings to relocate. Besides, the 2012 flood disaster report was ignored by most states affected by the flood.  Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), on August 29, warned Nigerians living by the banks of River Niger and Benue and its floodplains to immediately relocate over possible flooding. Not many envisaged the magnitude of the devastation that would follow.

The agency had warned that flood was advancing into the Lower Niger (Nigeria) with both Kainji and Jebba dams already spilling water downstream and the level of water in Lokoja downstream of the confluence standing at 8.69m, exceeding the corresponding value of 8.57m that occurred on August 29, 2012.

The Cameroonian authorities on August 18, alerted Nigeria that its stock of waters in their Lagdo Dam had become unbearable. The authorities indicated its readiness to release the excess waters to save the dam from imminent collapse. The Cameroonian government maintained that if the dam was allowed to collapse, the consequences would be worse than the 2012 flood.

When the alert from Cameroon over the release of waters was conveyed to the Adamawa authorities, the message was equally transmitted to the people to enable them move to safer places in order not to be caught unawares by the impending flood. The communities were adamant. Many of the villagers believe it is taboo to relocate from their ancestral homes except through death.

The aftermath of the excess water from the dam was destruction of lives, properties, houses, farmlands and livestock, among other cherished valuables of the rural dwellers.

Flooding across Nigeria killed more than 100 people. Streets become rivers during the rainy season as sewage channels and drainage systems were overwhelmed during downpours. The rainfall, which began in July and continued into September, caused River Niger and the Benue to burst their banks.

The flood, which affected most states in the country had twelve states as worst hit as water poured over the banks of the two major rivers in Nigeria into communities of the affected areas.

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency had earlier issued report that the Benue and Niger Rivers were close to reaching levels of that of 2012 that led to floods that killed more than 400 people and wiped out scores of homes, farms – wiping away crops before they could be harvested and other property.

The disaster caused over 200 deaths with over 500 injuries, while displacing over 200, 000 people. The Federal Government declared a state of emergency in the four worst affected states of Anambra, Delta, Kogi, and Niger. According to National Emergency Management (NEMA), cost of the disaster was estimated at over N5 billion naira.

In Anambra State, seven local governments, Ogbaru, Anyamelum, Anambra East and Anambra West, Onitsha South, Awka North and Ihiala, Local Government Areas were the most affected areas in the state. In response to that, the state government set up Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps across the state for thousands of people fleeing their communities.

Ogbaru communities were severely flooded than any other local government in the state. Schools and markets closed  with crops harvested prematurely. At Federal Polytechnic Oko, Atani Campus, offices, classrooms, and fields were all flooded, with the students having challenges in accessing their classrooms.

The institution’s electric transformer and generators were also submerged, resulting in total blackout. Villagers used canoes to pass through the school compound to the neighbouring communities. The Mbamili Diocese of the Anglican Church said it lost 45 of its churches to the flood, forcing parish priests to relocate to safe areas.

The devastating flood disaster prompted Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to visit Anambra State. Prof. Osinbajo, accompanied by Governor Willie Obiano, Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige visited some of the flood- ravaged parts of the state, pledging Federal Government’s assistance to affected communities.

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