Peter Dada, Akure
For the past one week, sadness and lamentation are the two major tunes common on the lips of most residents of Ikare Akoko, Supare Akoko and Ugbe Akoko in the Akoko North-East and Akoko South-West local government areas of Ondo State. Following a devastating rainstorm that greeted the area on Thursday, April 4, life has not remained the same for residents of these communities. The disaster destroyed over 500 houses, rendering scores homeless in the process.
Apart from buildings, other things like electricity poles, Internet masts and bill boards were also destroyed by the rainstorm. Saturday PUNCH learnt that as a result of the tragedy, some parts of the affected communities had been in total blackout since that period.
A source narrated that during the rainstorm, which led to over one hour of heavy downpour, residents lived in fear, thinking that it could be their last moments on earth. When our correspondent visited the affected area earlier in the week, the extent of damage and devastation could be clearly seen but not described by words.
In Supare Akoko, almost all the houses in the town were affected in one way or the other. In fact, residents, who spoke with our correspondent, said that they never knew the value of their houses until now that they had been rendered homeless by the rainstorm.
For Pa Akin Ogunyebi, whose house, a bungalow located at the foot of a hill, was completely destroyed by the rainstorm, the tragedy is not what he would have wished for at this period of his life. The old man could not salvage anything from his belongings. Everything was lost to the tragedy. With sadness and anger written all over his face, the old man told Saturday PUNCH that he was the only one living in the damaged building since the demise of his wife some years ago. He revealed that there was no one to help him when the rainstorm blew off the roof of his house and destroyed the property.
“The rainstorm destroyed my house, a property I spent the better part of my life to build. My box where I keep valuables and clothes were all destroyed by the rainstorm,” he said pathetically.
Asked about the whereabouts of his children, Ogunyebi, who could still walk on his own, said his children were not living in the town, adding that if they had been around maybe his loss could have been minimised.
“None of my children lives in this town,” he said. “I am the only one staying in this house. I lost one of my children a few years ago before my wife passed on.
“I am pleading with the government and other well-meaning individuals to come to my aid so that I will not o become homeless at this my age. I don’t want to die a homeless man at my age,” he added.
Also rendered homeless by the rainstorm, Mr Abudu Umar and his family members have struggled to live with the new reality since the sad incident. An indigene of Afin Akoko, Umar, who retired from the local government service eight years ago, said that there was no means to repair his house because he had no money. He revealed that the state government was still owing him his gratuity, thereby making life for him and his family difficult. According to him, if he could get the money he was being owed, he would use it to repair his damaged house.
“I worked as a civil servant for the Ondo State Government for almost 25 years but since I retired eight years ago, my gratuity has not been paid.
“The recent rainstorm blew away the roof of my house. At the moment, my family and I have been putting up with friends because we have become homeless. In fact, I never knew my house was a precious gift until I found myself in this situation. I do not have the money to repair the destroyed house.
“I am appealing to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State to come to my aid and order the immediate payment of my gratuity so that I can repair my house and also take care of my family,” he said.
Adeola Ijanusi, another victim of the disaster in Supare Akoko, almost burst into tears while narrating his ordeal to Saturday PUNCH. He said he had lost over N1m in terms of property to the rainstorm. According to him, he no longer has a place to sleep in the house, so he and members of his family had been moving from the house of one relative to another in trying to find a place to lay their heads at night since the incident happened.
“The rainstorm destroyed my entire house. All my belongings including furniture and electronics have all been destroyed. What I lost is over N1m.
“But the most painful aspect is that we have become homeless and have been living with relatives. We thought our house was not comfortable until now that we have lost it to the rainstorm.
“We want the government of Ondo State to help us because we don’t have money. We are all farmers,” he said.
For Mrs Ibukun Folasade, another affected resident, life has suddenly become sour following the deadly rainstorm that greeted parts of Ondo State. While appealing for assistance, the woman said most of her belongings had been lost to the tragedy, adding that since the incident happened, she and members of her family had equally been homeless.
“We were at home last Thursday when the rain started. It destroyed everything we had in the house like mattresses, chairs, clothes after it blew off the entire roof.
“We are homeless at the moment and have nowhere to go. We are appealing to the government to assist us in the best ways possible so that we can move on with our lives,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Ondo State Government through the Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, has announced that it will provide support for those affected in order to cushion the effects of the disaster on them. Ajayi, who paid a visit to the affected communities earlier in the week, described the incident as a terrible tragedy.
“The state officials of the National Emergency Management Agency are already in the affected communities to ascertain the damage caused by the rainstorm so as to ameliorate the plight of the victims.
“At the moment, we urge the people to desist from dumping refuse and other irrelevant items that may hinder easy flow of water,” he said.
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