In the earlier part of last year, heavy rains and thunderstorms caused havoc in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic nerve center and one of Africa’s most populous cities. Residents woke up in many parts of the city to find their streets and homes flooded and their property, including cars and other valuables, submerged.
Pictures and videos that later surfaced online showed dramatic and even bizarre scenes of flooding in the city, including the capture of a crocodile in the floodwater. Another video that went viral was one of a man rowing his canoe in floodwater on one of the streets.
Lagos has however not been alone in this struggle as Suleija, a town near the capital city Abuja hundreds of kilometers away, suffered its own flooding challenge in early July of the same year. Heavy rains washed houses away and caused others to collapse, trapping occupants. Thirteen people were reported to have died.
Some of the worst flooding in recent memory happened six years ago in March 2012 when 32 of Nigeria’s 36 states were affected, 24 severely. More than 360 people were killed and almost 2 million people were displaced.
The seriousness of the flooding was attributed to a combination of two events: very heavy local rainfall and the release of excess water from the Lagdo Dam in nearby Cameroon.
Although the degree and seriousness of flooding in Nigeria fluctuates, flooding remains a recurring phenomenon in most parts of the country. The first factor aggravating flooding is climate change, which has been shown to contribute to more extreme storms and rainfall. Another factor contributing to flooding in cities is that Nigeria has experienced rapid urban growth and planning is poor.
A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry. Flooding may occur as an overflow of water from water bodies, such as a river, lake, or ocean, in which the water overtops or breaks levees, resulting in some of that water escaping its usual boundaries, or it may occur due to an accumulation of rainwater on saturated ground in an aerial flood.
CAUSES OF FLOODING IN NIGERIA
Generally, causes of flood in Nigeria could be as a result of Natural Cause or Human Cause.
Natural cause in form of heavy or torrential rains/rainstorm, oceans storms and tidal waves usually along the coast.
Or Human Causes. Burst water main pipes Dam burst levee failures Dam spills.
Flooding occurs throughout Nigeria in following forms: Coastal flooding, River flooding, Flash floods, Urban flooding, Dam burst, levee failures, Dam spills.
Coastal flooding occurs in the low-lying belt of mangrove and fresh water swamps along the coast.
River flooding occurs in the flood plains of the larger rivers.
Flash floods are associated with rivers in the inland areas where sudden heavy rains can change them into destructive torrents within a short period.
Urban flooding occur in towns located on flat or low lying terrain especially where little or no provision has been made for surface drainage, or where existing drainage has been blocked with municipal waste, refuse and eroded soil sediments.
Extensive urban flooding is a phenomenon of every rainy session in Lagos, Maiduguri, Aba, Warri, Benin and Ibadan. Virtually every Nigerian is vulnerable to disasters, natural or man-made. Every rainy season, wind gusts arising from tropical storms claim lives and property worth millions of Naira across the country.
Flash floods from torrential rains wash away thousands of hectares of farmland. Dam bursts are common following such flood. In August 1988 for instance, 142 people died, 18,000 houses were destroyed and 14,000 farms were swept away when the Bagauda Dam collapsed following a flash flood. Urban flooding such as the Ogunpa disaster which claimed over 200 lives and damaged property worth millions of Naira in Ibadan, are common occurrence Floods paralyze economic activities in many towns and cities in the country.
PREVENTIVE AND MITIGATING MEASURES
When Looking for Plots for building and Construction
- Find out if the area suffers often from floods.
- Find out how serious, or the level of the previous highest flood.
- Check if there are dams up, or close to where you are going to build or live.
- Seek expert advice and use appropriate building materials, in flood prone areas and build only in the approved way and in approved areas.
As a responsible citizen,
- Help in every way to construct drains and ditches or embankments, to protect buildings, constructions, utilities etc.
- Never put refuse or solid materials in drains, and discourage others from doing so. Always help to desilt or clean gutters or drains and encourage others to do the same.
- Identify a higher place where you can run to during floods.
- Prevent becoming a victim to floods Know that no amount of sympathy and relief can make up for the pain, grief and the losses you will surfer from flood disaster.
- Educate yourself and others about floods, know the signals and behave as you are directed. Don’t remove plants or trees unnecessarily, help to replant burnt or cleared forests.
BEFORE A FLOOD (WHEN FLOODING IS FORECAST)
If a flash flood warning is issued for your area: Climb to safety immediately.
Assemble disaster supplies:
- Drinking water – Fill clean containers.
- Food that requires no refrigeration or cooking.
- Medications and first aid supplies.
- Clothing, toiletries.
- Battery-powered radio.
- Extra batteries.
- Important documents: insurance papers, medical records, bank account numbers.
Be prepared to evacuate.
Review your Family Disaster Plan.
Protect your property.
DURING A FLOOD
Don’t drive unless you have to.
If you must drive, travel with care.
NEVER drive through flooded roadways. STOP! Turn Around Don’t Drown.
Get to high ground – Climb to safety!
Evacuate immediately, if you think you are at risk or are advised to do so!
Never try to walk or swim through flowing water.
Shut off the electricity at the circuit breakers.
If someone falls in or is trapped in flood water:
- Do not go after the victim!
- Use a floatation device. If possible throw the victim something to help them float, such as a spare tire, large ball, or foam ice chest.
- Call 911. Call for assistance and give the correct location information.
AFTER A FLOOD
Wait until it is safe to return.
Travel with care.
If a building was flooded, check for safety before entering.
Use extreme caution when entering buildings.
Take pictures of the damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance claims.
Get professional help.
- Seek necessary medical care. Do not neglect minor wounds or illnesses.
- Food, clothing, shelter, and first aid are available from the American Red Cross.
- If the gas has been turned off for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
- Have an electrician check the electrical system and appliances.
- Wells should be pumped out and the water tested for purity before drinking.
Your home is no longer a safe place.
- Throw away medicine, food, or water that had contact with floodwaters (including canned goods).
- If water is of questionable purity, boil drinking water for 10 minutes.
- Restrict children from playing in flooded areas.
- Keep windows and doors open for ventilation.
- Pump out flooded basements gradually (removing about 1/3 of the water volume each day) to avoid structural damage.
- Keep the power off until an electrician has inspected the system for safety. All electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service.
- Clean and disinfect everything that got wet.
- Service damaged sewage systems as soon as possible.
When making repairs, protect your property from future flood damage.
How to Survive a Flood: Flood Safety & Survival Tips is now available on our Podcast- Listen Below