How Lagos downpour wreaked havoc, gridlock

• Govt urges calm, pledges prompt response
A downpour in Lagos and its environs that lasted for about two hours yesterday wreaked havoc and paralysed business activities in the nation’s economic capital.

For hours after the rain, that was preceded by a cloudy weather and darkened skyline subsided, the effect was still felt across the metropolis, and in some neighbouring communities in Ogun State.

Trees on many of the major streets gave way to the wind, just as some streetlight stands, traffic light stands, telecom masts, electric poles and signages that could not withstand the storm fell on vehicles and buildings. The gridlock on major roads was nerve-racking. The rain that fell in the early hours of the day devastated buildings and vehicles, and disrupted business activities.

The flood in some parts of the city left thousands of residents stranded as it made many major roads impassable and went into living homes and offices, while mass of plastics and nylons washed out from blocked drains littered the streets.

The rain, which started about 8:35 a.m. and was characterised by strong winds caused destruction in Oshodi, Agege, Abule-Egba, Iyana-Ipaja, Ikeja, Ketu, Ojota, Somolu, Lagos Mainland, Oworonsoki, Oyingbo and Ebute Metta areas. Others places affected include Lagos Island, Ajegunle, Surulere, Mushin, Iganmu, Gbagada and Ikoyi.

At Oke Eri Street in Oworonshoki, soaked personal valuables like clothes, furniture and documents were washed into the streets. At the Kingsway Road and Alfred Rewane Road in Ikoyi, trees fell on cars. On Toyin Street in Ikeja, a tree that fell, blocking the road, caused gridlock across the area. The story was the same in other parts of Ikeja, Agege, Abule Egba and the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway.

At the Ogudu end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the traffic was almost at a standstill as rainwater took over the road, forcing motorists to move at snail speed. At Agric area of Ikorodu, the water level on a road leading to Asolo in Isawo was knee-high. According to eyewitnesses, pedestrians, tricycles and sedan automobiles struggled to wade through the flood.

A resident, Obanla Segun, said Governor Akinwunmi Ambode should be blamed for the flooding due to his alleged non-sensitivity to environmental sanitation.

“Ever since Governor Ambode stopped the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) operation in the state, it has become a problem for us. Also the termination of the monthly environmental sanitation without something to address how waste would be properly evacuated has been a disaster,” he said.

Oluwaseun Sola, a resident in Sango area of Ogun State said the rainstorm destroyed property around the Sango bridge and caused gridlock due to a bad road network. “It is shocking that we still witness rainfall that destroys many property. I was preparing to go to the office but suddenly the sky turned dark and wind started blowing. Before I knew it, the wind had blown off the roof of two buildings in my neighbourhood. I immediately left the bus stop to hide myself from disaster,” he said.

Though it was expected to be a respite from the hot weather that many people had bitterly complained about recently, yesterday’s downpour left the residents with so much worry.

At a recent event, a former Commissioner for the Environment during the Babatunde Fashola administration, Adesegun Oniru, warned of impending flooding unless appropriate preventive measures were taken to forestall it.

Oniru said: “A few months before the commencement of the rainy season, the government should have cleared all the drainage systems. We need to carry out de-silting of the drainage now to stop flooding, especially in Victoria Island. The construction of the Eko Atlantic City helped in cushioning the effect. Without the Eko Atlantic City, there would have been no more Victoria Island because of the effects of climate change.”

An environmentalist, Mr. Taiwo Adewole, also charged the state and local governments to commence early clearing of the drainage to prevent flood. Of particular concern to Adewole is the need for residents to stop patronising roadside refuse collectors, whom he said would only collect waste from various homes for a fee and dump the heaps in canals. This development, he said, was counter-productive and capable of exposing the state to flooding.

Also, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) had predicted cloudy weather conditions with possible widespread of thunderstorm in many parts of the country at the weekend.

The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency had also recently warned that about 380 local government areas in 35 states across the country would suffer flooding this year. Lagos is one of the coastal states that are prone to flood anytime there is heavy rainfall.

In its reaction to the downpour yesterday, the state government assured Lagos residents that it had put in place necessary measures to address the challenges posed by heavy rainfall, as the rainy season approaches.

In a joint statement, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information and Strategy, Mr. Fola Adeyemi and his counterpart in the Ministry of the Environment, Mr. Abiodun Bamgboye, urged the residents to remain calm, describing the unpredictable pattern of rainfall currently being experienced as a natural outcome of climate change.

The government stated that “it is not unusual to occasionally experience flash-floods, especially in a coastal state like Lagos, as well as during rain of high intensity, as it occurred today. We assure Lagosians that in a matter of time, they will all disappear and be contained by the drainages.”

The statement also assured Lagosians that relevant government agencies had been put on red alert to adequately respond to any unforeseen occurrence, during rains of high intensity as well as cart away fallen trees and electricity poles, and confront any other emergency, during the rains.