DAKAR, Senegal — Rainy season flooding across Nigeria has killed more than 100 people, as water poured over the banks of the West African country’s two major rivers, and into numerous cities and towns.
Officials prepared on Monday to declare a natural disaster, which would allow for the mobilization of military and other resources to 12 states that have been badly affected. President Muhammadu Buhari has authorized the equivalent of $8.2 million to aid relief efforts.
Over the weekend, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency reported that the Benue and Niger Rivers were close to reaching levels that in 2012 led to floods that killed more than 350 people and wiped out scores of homes, farms and other property.
Seasonal flooding is a scourge in many communities in Nigeria and elsewhere across the region, where a growing population, lax control of new construction and a lack of good drainage infrastructure are colliding. Nigeria is by far the most populous country in Africa, but the flooding so far this year has mostly been in rural areas.
In Lagos, the most populous city in Nigeria and on the entire continent, streets become rivers during the rainy season as sewage channels and drainage systems are overwhelmed during downpours. The phenomenon is repeated across numerous communities in West Africa, where traffic and business come to a standstill for hours or days, waiting for the streets to drain. Sometimes the flooding becomes deadly.
Last year, hundreds of people were killed in a mudslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone, along a hillside where residents of the booming city had cleared forests to build homes. Victims were buried alive in their houses and vehicles. Environmental groups and local organizations had been warning for years that the development was risky.
In Nigeria, local television stations reported that more than 100 communities had flooded and broadcast images of muddy waters reaching the rooftops of clusters of homes. Some people died when flooding caused their homes to collapse, according to Agence France-Presse.
Local leaders in some areas were advising residents to evacuate. Officials in Anambra State set up 28 camps for fleeing residents. Thousands of people fled their homes in Cross River State, officials there said, noting that many of them lived in swampy areas or along waterways. Farmland was flooded in other states, wiping away crops before they could be harvested.
Environmentalists have long called for government investment in better drainage and improvements to aid development in coastal areas. Other officials have called for better maintenance of dams as well as the construction of new ones to keep flooding in check.