Saturday, April 10 was a day the people of the ancient town of Aguleri in Anambra East Local Government Area, Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria would not forget so soon.
A light rain shower soon turned to a storm running into hours nonstop.
By the time the storm calmed, two schools, a high court building, many residential apartments and several electric poles were in ruins.
Aguleri is the hometown town of Blessed Iwene Tansi, the first beatified Catholic priest in Nigeria and also the hometown of Willie Obiano, the serving governor of Anambra State.
It is a coastal community along Omambala River in Anambra; one of the worst hit in the recent annual flooding in Nigeria.
A visit to the area depicted a picture of a community in ruins with blown off roofs, collapsed structures, and electricity blackout due to power outage occasioned by fallen electric poles and wires.
Speaking to HumAngle, Hippo Onwuekpuke, the President-General of Aguleri town, described the disaster as a very monumental one that had not been experienced in the history of the community.
Onwuekpuke said though there was no reported death, many families have been rendered homeless and students displaced from their learning environment as exams draw close.
According to him, the community has had disasters in the past but none has ever been like the current experience.
“Justice Chinwuba Memorial Girls Secondary School was affected, Fr Joseph Memorial High School (FJMHS) was affected, High Court Otuocha was affected, electric poles have fallen, some are resting on the trees meaning that there could be electrocution if the power is suddenly restored,” Onwuekpuke said.
“I understand EEDC has removed the power supply and we expect that it will remain that way until the poles and wires are repaired.”
“Some residential buildings were blown off on Azike Road, Abalaka road and a host of others, these are just a few because they are public buildings, so we call on government and the international community to come to our aid and reduce the suffering of our people, particularly the students.”
Also speaking, Anthony Okoye, a Reverend Father and Principal of Fr Joseph Memorial High School (FJMHS) says a total of 14 buildings were either unroofed or collapsed with 15 electric poles pulled down within the school premises alone.
Okoye said the affected structures included administration block, classroom blocks, kitchen, hostel block, and pavilion as well as electric poles within the 61-year-old school owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha.
“The incident happened on Saturday, April 10, which was the same day our students returned from Easter break. At about 8:30 in the evening the storm came and removed the roof of a pavilion structure and slammed it on others.
“Our examination hall block, a storey building was collapsed, our library was destroyed, some buildings in our staff quarters were also destroyed save for a few, precisely on three two buildings were spared,” the Reverend Father said.
He called for speedy assistance from the federal and state government to the school.
Emmanuel Anerobi, the principal of Justice Chinwuba Memorial Secondary School said students now study under trees as the windstorm also blew off roofs of some classrooms in the school.
Anerobi appealed for urgent government intervention to help the school recover from the trauma.
“We are in need now, look at our classroom block, I told the contractor when he was roofing this structure that he was using substandard materials now see it, the windstorm has carried it away,” he said.
Chyukwudi Onyejekwe, a director at the Anambra State Emergency Management Agency said Fr Joseph Memorial High School (FJMHS) was strategic as it was the biggest holding camp in the state for flood victims. He said the blocks used to camp them were destroyed.
“That is why we contacted NEMA immediately to come and see things for themselves and come to our aid as the state cannot handle it alone,” Onyejekwe.
“Several other residential houses and places of worship centres were also destroyed by the windstorm.”
Dr Emman Udeakpeh, President of FJMHS Old Boys Association said the school community was still in deep shock but was making frantic efforts to ensure that the normal academic atmosphere returned quickly.
According to Udeakpeh, it looked like a tornado, “the destruction was much and we need the efforts of everybody to fix the destruction because neither the school nor the Church can do it on their own.”
Dr Emmanuel Okafor, Permanent Secretary in Anambra State Ministry of Environment, blamed the rising cases of a windstorm on climate change.
Okafor said Aguleri area was very open with no trees which should have served as windbreakers.
He pointed out that similar incidents had been witnessed in other neighbouring states and advised that as an immediate antidote, residents should embark on massive tree planting and afforestation.
“It has not happened before so we can attribute it to the global climate change challenge caused by sustained unhealthy environmental practices and this has altered the usual way natural environment interacts with us,” Okafor said.
“We have heard of similar windstorms in Imo and Enugu states, so this may not be the last, we advise that people now go into massive tree planting, this will mitigate the devastating effects of such storms.”
“There is a need for people to become more environmentally aware and engage in measures that can save our environment, “ he said.
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