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28 Drown, 4,650 Saved in One Day Trying to Reach Europe

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Written by Maritime First
  •  300 houses flooded as agency releases Oyan Dam water

More than 4,650 migrants were saved and 28 bodies recovered in more than 30 rescue missions in a single day off the Libyan coast, Italy’s coast guard said Wednesday.

It brings the total rescued over the past 48 hours to more than 10,000 refugees, and the death toll to 50 as people smugglers take advantage of relatively calm weather to push boats to sea.

The coast guard said the migrants Tuesday were rescued from 33 boats, including 27 rubber dinghies.

At its closest, Libya is about 180 miles from the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Some 13 ships from the coast guard, the Italian and Irish navies, private merchant vessels and humanitarian organizations were involved in the rescues. The coast guard gave no details about the deaths or about the nationalities of those saved.

The latest surge in new arrivals means at least 142,000 migrants have reached Italy since the start of the year and around 3,100 have died making the perilous trip. An estimated 154,000 came to Italy in 2015 and 2,892 died.

The majority come from Africa, including Nigeria, Eritrea, Guinea, Gambia, Sudan, Ivory Coast and Somalia.

The migrants are brought to Italy, where EU and Italian officials work together to identify and fingerprint the asylum seekers. European law says migrants must stay in the country where they first enter the bloc and Italy is increasingly struggling to deal with the growing numbers.

In the meantime, no fewer than 300 houses have been flooded and 860 households displaced following the opening of Oyan Dam water, one of the tributaries of the Ogun River.

The affected areas include Agiliti/Maidan, Orile, Owode, Agboyi and Araromi communities in Ketu and Mile 12 areas in Lagos; and Akute and Warewa communities, as well as estates in and around OPIC in Ogun State.

Parts of the Lagos State’s Isheri North Government Reserved Area and the Lagos State Development And Property Corporation Estate, were also affected.

Some of the residents, who spoke with PUNCH Metro, said they noticed some floodwater around their streets about two weeks ago but that by last week, the volume had increased, adding that their houses had been overrun by water.

The Chairman of Riverview Estate Residents’ Association, Mr. Abayomi Akinde, who described the incident as tragic, said there was no notice from the Ogun/Osun River Basin Development Authority (OORBDA) that water would be released from the Oyan Dam.

According to Akinde, the flood came despite assurances from OORBDA that the upsurge of flood which they never anticipated from the upstream, would not cause any kind of catastrophe.

He said, “The flooding started about three weeks ago when people started calling that their communities were flooded. People have been evacuating their homes since then, while some others are trapped. If the situation persists, everywhere will be submerged. The government needs to come in. Isheri North GRA, for instance, was sold by Lagos State and some of the estates were sold by the Ogun State Government. There was supposed to be proper planning; but we have been left to our fate. Former President Goodluck Jonathan visited this area four years ago because of this same problem, but nothing was done after the visit.

“We are appealing to OORBDA to reduce the operating level of the dam to 54 metres. If the level is reduced, the reservoir will have more space to hold water and this flooding will be averted.”

A landlord and former chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Environmental Engineers, Mr. Peter Onyeri, said the problem was lack of proper funding and management of the dam.

When PUNCH Metro visited some of the affected areas, the streets had been taken over and residents were seen vacating their homes, while some others, who remained had to reach their houses using canoes.

One of the canoe paddlers, who gave his name as Monday Bassey, said the cost of moving passengers across the water was between N100 and N500, depending on the distance.

Bassey said he had lived in the area for eight years and had seen the area flooded yearly, but that the residents had enjoyed a four-year break from 2012 before the current incident.

The Managing Director of Ogun/Osun River Basin Development Authority, Mr. Akintunde Soyemi, said the flooding was aggravated by human activities.

According to him, it was caused by the opening of one of Ogun River’s tributaries, Oyan Dam, which was built for fishing, hydro power, irrigation and flood control.

He said, “Ogun River is a big river cutting across three states with more than 20 tributaries one of which is Oyan Dam, which is the only one that is gated and whose release can be controlled.

“This year, we had much more run off; we only released 15 per cent now, which is done at a controlled rate and is not supposed to flood the downstream. It is flooding because it is not the only contributory river. Most of those flooded places are in the flood plain of Ogun River. The rule of thumb in constructing residences is that you must be above the level of the road, anywhere below such level will always be submerged.”

Soyemi, however, said the authority was working on controlling the flooding and that residents would see an improvement in the coming days.

The spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency, South West zone, Ibrahim Farinloye, said more than 300 houses were submerged by the flood.

He, however, said no life was lost.

“Our assessment of the extent of damages done by the release of excess water from Oyan River Dam in Ogun shows that Kara and Warewa communities in Ifo LGA of Ogun State were among the affected areas. About 300 houses were submerged and about 860 households affected. Most of them have left the affected areas,” he said.

MSN with additional report from Punch

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