Ceaseless disasters: As fire outbreaks take over from floods…

To many Nigerians, the country faces ceaseless disasters every year as floods destroy lives and property during the rainy season, while the dry season heralds avoidable infernos. Though the rainy season is over for the year, reported fire outbreaks have taken over from floods; PAUL OKAH reports.

Nigeria can best be described as a nation of ceaseless disasters as hardly a day passes by without media reports involving loss of human lives and property in different parts of the country. If it’s not news of floods sacking people from their homes in Bayelsa, Jigawa, Anambra or Borno, it would be inferno burning down houses in Abuja, Ebonyi, Kano and other states across the federation.

At the peak of the flood in the rainy season, hundreds of lives were lost apart from the billions of Naira, businesses, houses, farmlands and other items. More disturbing is the fact that victims are often forewarned by responsible agencies through media publications and radio programs, especially with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) presenting its Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP) on February 17 and the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) releasing its 2022 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO), but many residents would rather wait for the worst to happen than evacuate from their homes until they see flood.

FCT fire statistics

Fire outbreaks in the Federal Capital Territory are commonplace in homes and offices and often go unreported, with the recent being the inferno at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) headquarters on November 4.

In a document obtained by Blueprint Weekend on December 7, from January to September, this year (the records for November and December were not yet ready), the FCT Fire Service received 399 fire calls, 44 rescue calls, saved properties worth N4,428,990,765 billion, lost properties worth 2,042,245,232 billion, saved 85 lives, while 16 lives were unfortunately lost.

19 die, N36m property destroyed in Kano

On December 2, in a statement by the Public Relations Officer of the Kano state Fire Service, Saminu Abdullahi, at least 19 people lost their lives, while property worth N36 million were destroyed by fire disasters that occurred in different parts of the state in November.

Similarly, he said property worth N83 million was saved by the personnel of the service during the period under review, revealing that 71 people were successfully saved from different fire disasters that occurred across the state, adding that the agency, across its 27 fire stations, received 76 fire calls, 44 rescue calls and 16 false alarms.

“We will seize this opportunity to advise the general public to handle fire with care to avoid inferno, especially during this harmattan period. I would like to enlighten the public on the dangers of bush burning. During this harmattan season, bush burning could lead to a fire outbreak. Our call to households and shop owners is to always put electrical appliances off when not in use to avoid fire outbreaks,” he said.

68 fire calls received in Imo

On December 1, the Zonal Public Relations Officer of the Federal Fire Service, Zone J Command, Imo and Abia, Mr Mike Anowa, said the Command received no fewer than 68 fire calls between January and November in Imo.

He attributed the fire incidents to carelessness from electrical sparks and bush burning, saying the command received its highest calls in February and March, with 21 and 17 fire calls, respectively.

Anowa said the command would launch its fire awareness campaign on December 7 with a road walk across major streets of Owerri to prepare the minds of residents on fire safety, advising residents to always ensure that they switch off electrical appliances before leaving home to reduce the impact or damage by sudden electricity surge.

“The theme for this year’s fire awareness is “Preparedness: A vital tool to eliminate fire and other related disasters. Residents must prepare for fire outbreaks. Preparedness begins with getting a fire extinguisher in the house, smoke alarm, fire blankets, and other equipment to fight fire. Teach the children about fire safety and bring up a fire safety plan in the house,” he said.

Minister, NEMA’s assurances

On November 3, while briefing the state house on the Nigeria 2022 Flood Disaster Response, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, said she gave approval for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to make adequate plans towards the mitigation and preparedness for the 2022 floods, assuring the federal government, through her ministry and complementary efforts of sister Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), will continue to cater for disaster victims.

She said floods had wreaked havoc in 36 states and the FCT, saying “612 persons were reported dead; 3,219,780 are affected; 1,427,370 persons are displaced and 2,776 others are injured. A total of 181,600 houses are partially damaged; 123,807 houses are totally damaged; 176,852 hectares of farmland are partially damaged, while 392,300 hectares of farmland are totally destroyed. There is a widespread environmental dislocation.”

She said: “I gave approval for NEMA to make adequate plans towards the mitigation and preparedness for the 2022 floods. You may note that as the flood waters are now receding and rainfall reducing, we must work towards early recovery and stabilization of affected communities. We have to also seek durable solutions towards return and resettlement of affected communities; continue to provide lifesaving emergency assistance and prevent the spread of diseases; as well as consider food insecurity challenges that may arise.

“The Ministry has a partnership with the World Bank, towards conducting a post-disaster rapid impact assessment using the Global Rapid post-disaster Damage Estimation (GRADE). This exercise is intended to give an immediate understanding and estimation of the extent of damage and loss caused by the flood. This rapid estimation is needed because the physical Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) will take between six and eight months. So, while we wait for the PDNA to be conducted, we can use the GRADE for planning and financial purposes. As GRADE has been found to be fairly accurate, the findings will guide programs of recovery and flood prevention.”

Also speaking, the director-general of NEMA, Mustapha Habib Ahmed, said the agency had put plans in place to ensure disaster risk mitigation and intervention.

“As part of its annual flood disaster preparedness, NEMA convened a meeting of all stakeholders between April 26 and 27, 2022, to critically analyse the 2022 Annual Climate Prediction and the Annual Flood Outlook and come up with the disaster management implication of the two predictions.

“Letters on the flood Early Warning Message produced were sent to all the state Governors, the FCT Minister and members of the National Assembly as well as respective recommendations to mitigate impacts of the anticipated outcomes and avert loss of lives, means livelihoods, public and critical national assets and environmental dislocation. So far, NEMA has reached out to and responded to over 1, 427,370 displaced persons in 28 states and the FCT.

“Going forward, NEMA through its Zonal, Territorial and Operations Offices nationwide is conducting damage and loss assessment on farmlands, fisheries, poultry facilities and livestock to enable effective planning for Emergency Agricultural Intervention as the flood waters recede to support farmers, fishery owners and pastoralists to get back to work and safeguard the heavily impacted national food security,” he said.