Three children have reportedly died in the recent flooding that ravaged communities, including Polobubo (Teskelewu), in Warri North council area of Delta State.
The children, a girl and two boys, borne to two families, and identified as Annabel, Gift and Praise-God, were two, four and near five years old.
The bereaved parents confirmed to newsmen who visited the community at the weekend that they lost their children to the flood.
They had come out to play but fell in the swelling waters and were washed away. Their bodies were discovered later.
Mr David Suku, father of Gift and Praise-God, said, “The water was too much, so as the child fell into the water nobody was around. Before we could find him, he was already dead. The last flood, one died, this one another one has died, if there is anything government can do for us, they should do it. Losing a second child to the flood is too much for me.”
His wife, Doris Suku, in tears and narrating how it happened said, “I was at home when the child went out to play. I thought he was at my brother’s wife’s place. I didn’t see him, so I went to ask them. They said he had returned home and I told them, no, I haven’t seen him. We looked for him. It was in the morning, we saw him already dead.”
Another man, Mr Enoch Kane recalled the tragic day he lost his daughter, saying, “She died on August 16. I lost my daughter to the flood. She walked to the backyard, and fell into the the water. We looked for her, only to find her in the water, already dead. She was two years old and wasn’t used to swimming.”
The community has called on the federal government to urgently direct Chevron Nigeria Limited to dredge the inland waterways, while bemoaning the loss of life to the flood.
The people carried placards with inscriptions: “No farm, no food because of flood. Government help us; government come to our aid, flood has damaged our properties; flood has damaged all our church instruments,” charged government at all levels, as well as the international community to intervene.
Speaking, the secretary-general of Polobubo national council, Mr. Midwest Kukuru described the development as “agonising, harrowing and disturbing,” further accusing Chevron of being responsible for the flood disaster.
He explained that the river in the community used to be a “very deep fresh water habitat, until few years after the advent of oil companies, particularly Chevron. We began to have these problems. This problem is caused by Chevron as a result of the canal that was dug into the Atlantic Ocean. The silt from the ocean comes through the canal and is deposited in this river. During dry season this river is less than one meter. Because it is silted, when the rain falls the water has nowhere to go than to begin to overflow the banks, go into houses and begin to cause problems. This in a nutshell is the cause of it.
“We are appealing to the governments, local, state, federal and even the world, to prevail on Chevron to open up this our river for us. First of all, block that canal that they dug to the Atlantic ocean, then dig the whole of this river. Get it to the normal depth that it was before. Then, there are areas they need to fill with sand for this community to relocate to because we have study reports that say that the whole of the community is sitting below sea level.
“For those reasons, we are asking the world, the federal government, to urgently prevail on Chevron to reclaim a particular place for Tsekelewu-Polububo people to stay on. Having dredged it, we need it piled so we don’t have this yearly problem. The flood we had last year was less than what we have now. It is expected that by next year, it is going to be far greater than what we have today. Now the people cannot lay hands on anything,” Kukuru emphasized.
The Nation visited the community’s Cottage Hospital, where the medical director of health facility, Dr. Terry Itimi, said patients had to be moved from the wards and the theatre rendered “not functional”.
“No surgery can occur at the moment. It is very important that the government or whoever is in charge come to the aid of these people because this is the only functional hospital around this Polobubo vicinity and people come from all areas around here to get medical care. With the way the water is going, sometimes, it is up to knee level in the hospital.
Two days ago, we had an emergency surgery for a woman, but due to the unhygienic state of the facility, we couldn’t carry that out. There are other cases we have to refer to urban areas, which is very far from here,” the doctor said.
The community’s primary school, Miyen Primary School, was not spared in the onslaught, as a teacher, Alice Gbalubi, lamented the ordeal that teachers and learners have been subjected to since resumption.
She said, “As you can see, the school is flooded with water. We have resumed but the pupils learn on water. They stand because we don’t have chairs as you can see. Before the close of the school, many get colds, fever and vomit. Even teachers cannot dress properly because of the water. We don’t wear shoes but walk barefooted. Most times, their (pupils) books fall on water and get destroyed. We want government and Chevron to come to our aid.”
A youth of the community, Comrade Markson Aboh, decried the loss of the biodiversity being enjoyed in the past and suffering being an oil producing area has brought on them.
“What we are saying is that Chevron in collaboration with the federal government need to dredge our creeks, then fill the community with sand for us. This community has been producing oil since the 70s, but nothing has been done to ameliorate our sufferings here. We have lost our source of livelihood. This is a fishing community, we rely on bio resources but today, they are no more. Salt water intrusion from the Atlantic ocean has destroyed all the plants. The channel created by Chevron to the Atlantic ocean which is the source of our problem, should be closed. If not, even if they dredge today, within the space of six months, the place will be silted again,” Aboh said.
The pastor of First Baptist Church, where water was being pumped out at the time of visit, Rev. Kenneth Toruwei, disclosed that the church lost most of its instruments to the ravaging flood and pointed out that a jetty in front of the church building had been submerged in the water.
An elderly man, Patrick Gagha also decried the loss of the once mangrove woods, which he said had “all been driven away by the salt water invasion.”