UPDATE: The Red Cross has just announced the recovery of five bodies washed ashore River Niger in Lokoja.
The Nigeria Red Cross Society said on Sunday it had deployed three boats to the riverine areas of Ibaji Local Government Council of Kogi state to rescue trapped flood victims taking refuge on treetops.
The Federal Road Safety Commission has also blocked the Abuja-Lokoja highway for safety reasons, as flood in Kogi State rendered the route impassable. It advised motorists to seek alternative routes to get into and outside the Federal Capital Territory.
On Monday morning, it updated the advisory by asking motorists to take the Makurdi route in and out of Abuja.
Mr Mustafa Allah-Dey, the Chairman of the Kogi State branch of the Red Cross, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lokoja that the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) released the boats for the rescue operation.
Mr. Allah-Dey said men of the Nigerian Navy and officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, State Emergency Management Agency and the state Ministry of Environment were also involved in the operation, adding that many of the victims were said to be in life threatening situations.
He said that the people should be blamed for their present predicament, adding that they failed to heed several warnings to quit their houses to avoid being trapped.
The chairman said that he did not have the figure of the exact number of people trapped and that no report of casualties had been received as at the time of this report.
He only described the situation in Ibaji as “very terrible”.
Meanwhile, the traffic gridlock on Lokoja-Abuja road has become more chaotic with vehicles forming long queues on both sides of the road.
The queue at the Lokoja end of the road has extended to Obajana village, about 15 kilometres to Lokoja city centre.
Isaac Martins, the Head of operations of the State Sector Command of the FRSC, who confirmed this to NAN, said that there was not much the commission could do to help the situation.
He said the problem was particularly with the small cars, adding that it takes officials and youths assisting them an average of 20 minutes to help a car out of the water.
“Vehicles are moving but they are moving slowly, that is just the situation at hand now,’’ Mr. Martins said.
He appealed to motorists to make use of alternative routes pending the time the flood would be over.
Meanwhile, a technical team comprising officials of NEMA and other stakeholders in disaster management at the weekend visited areas devastated by the flood along the banks of Rivers Benue and Niger and their tributaries in Benue and Kogi States to assess the damages and identify suitable intervention required to address the problem.
“As most of the areas remained flooded, about 10, 000 displaced persons are taking shelter in four camps each in Benue and Kogi States while many more are also taking cover with their relatives,” NEMA’s spokesperson, Yushau Shuiab, said in a statement.
“NEMA has already deployed relief items to the camps to assist the Internally diplaced People (IDPs).”
The flood in Benue affected the communities in Makurdi along the river belt.
Nine local government areas were affected in Kogi State with Ibaji Local Government Area almost completely submerged. The inhabitants are now taking refuge in the neighbouring communities, with some on treetops.
The other local governments areas affected, according to NEMA are Bassa, Ofu, Kogi, Omala, Ajaokuta, Ankpa, Igalamela and Lokoja where choice property including hotels, residential buildings, government offices and fishing communities along the confluence of Rivers Benue and Niger were also virtually submerged.
At a meeting with the Governor of Kogi State, NEMA’s Director of Planning, Research and Forecasting, Charles Agbo who led the team, warned of prolonged flooding as more water would still be released from Lagdo Dam in Cameroon and Kainji Dam with the intensifying rains.
He also urged the state government to enforce the standard regulation on urban planning and development as well as permanently relocate communities in the flood plains to safer locations.
Mr. Charles further warned that even after the flood, most of the submerged houses might become too weak and no longer be safe for habitation in addition to the potential health hazards from the disaster.
Responding, Governor Idris Wada appreciated the concern of the Federal Government towards the flood situation and requested supports to reinforce the efforts made by the state government to assist the displaced persons.
He urged NEMA and relevant organizations to identify measures to mitigate future occurrence of the flood.