Lake Nyos: NEMA warns of greater flood tragedy as one million people face death

Lake Nyos

The floods in several parts of Nigeria, which have caused the death of hundreds of people and displacement of millions of others, will be a small tragedy compared to a disaster that could occur within three years, if no action is taken.

The Lake Nyos Dam in Cameroon, which is situated very close to Nigeria, could collapse in less than three years and cause the death of over one million people and  financial loss of several billions of naira, the head of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, has said.

At an event on the likely disaster in Abuja, the Director-General of  NEMA, Muhammed Sidi,  recalled the 2005 United Nations Development Program report which predicted the collapse of the dam in less than 10 years.

Mr. Sidi, represented by NEMA’s Director of Administration, Zanna Muhammad, said the report predicted that the collapse might be caused by gradual erosion from rain, wind, and lake waters; or as a result of violent volcanic eruption.

The eventual failure of the dam would result in the discharge of about 55 million cubic metres of water which would result in flooding.

“It is estimated that between Cameroon border and River Benue, 50 settlements, including Katsina-Ala, Kashimbilla, Waya, Manga, Gamovo, Andie, Terwegh and over 15,000 hectares of land will be flooded.

“Also, over one million people and 20,000 heads of cattle and other livestock will be affected and could perish,” the emergency agency boss said.

Mr. Sidi said that likely financial losses had been estimated to be in billions of naira, comprising of crops, residential and commercial structures, utilities, and infrastructure.

The NEMA boss said the agency has produced a “Lake Nyos Disaster Response Manual” to prepare for the catastrophe that would arise if Lake Nyos Dam in Western Cameroon collapses.

The manual was endorsed on Thursday at the ceremony, which aims to put measures in place to mitigate flood waters from the lake from affecting the people of Benue.

The NEMA boss said that, as part of his agency’s mandate to prevent and mitigate disaster in Nigeria, the agency, in collaboration with Benue State Emergency Management Agency, held a workshop to create awareness, share experiences and to draw up an appropriate contingency response and evacuation plan.

He said the draft for the manual was developed by the agency and forwarded to the stakeholders for their input which culminated in the final copy.

“The manual is, therefore, apt, considering the various flood disasters affecting the country and the content could be applied in different flood scenarios. There is, therefore, the need for various Ministries, Departments and Agencies to develop their Standard Operating Procedures in this regard.

“It is important also to note that the manual is a living document and is subject to periodic review as the situation arises,” he added.

Present at the ceremony were representatives of the federal ministries of environment, water resources, science and technology, agriculture, transport, army; the police, civil defence corps, the Red Cross , the Federal Road Safety Corps, among others.

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