On the eastern side of Lagos Island is a small but surprisingly diverse community, made up of dozens of predominantly Muslim families in small but impressive houses.
This past weekend, one of these families was rescued, but the sheer scale of the damage their predicament has inflicted on their peers is virtually immeasurable.
Over the past five years, an island community that contains most of Lagos Island’s habitable coastline has been slowly disappearing under the pressure of a rising sea.
Already saturated with destruction by cyclones and floods, the 1.1-kilometer-long stretch of island is now being buffeted by an unexpected storm, this time from the ocean. But unlike most of the properties within this flood zone, these houses are designed to prevent contamination from being carried ashore by heavy rainfall.
“They were ‘built to last’ as a control against flooding and the erosion that happen around here,” explained Akinsola Omotayo. “Now I see houses being demolished.”
Few of the residents of the neighborhood have been able to escape from the damage. Half the houses on the strip, including those of local residents, have been demolished. The cars parked outside are now abandoned on the streets.
Despite measures taken by local and national authorities, several houses in the community have been left to fall in on themselves, such as ones a few meters from the beach, according to a statement from the National Emergency Management Agency.
“The government has literally killed the community by destroying its basic infrastructure,” Babajide Layonu, the spokesman for the community told the Guardian. “People’s lives have been lost. If it is not for the efforts of some kind-hearted people who rescued some of us from our dangerous situation, I’m sure our people would have died,” he said.
Those rescued could be seen, with tears in their eyes, in a video clip shot by a Reuters photographer as they scrambled out of their flooded homes.
“When we saw the tidal surge, we knew something was wrong,” said one witness. “But our ignorance of what would happen to us prevented us from vacating the area.”
There are few facts known about the ground water level of the island, but in January, Nigeria’s national flood chief, Akin Isola, told the Daily Nation newspaper that it would rise to 14 meters by 2030, which would considerably exceed the long-term projection made a decade earlier.
“The rise of tides and water levels is expected to continue to increase and increase continuously and above all, steeply at peak tides and especially from late afternoon of November to December and January,” he added.
The rising tide is the result of a combination of natural variability and the inability of Lagos Island’s soil to store water any more. In recent years, a complex stream of debris including cobwebs and animal waste have been flushing out the water that should nourish coastal vegetation. This has made it vulnerable to further erosion and accelerated the rate at which the strip of land disappears.
Until recently, residents had little option but to wait out the tide. “We were happy that we were still able to live on the island, but it became sad for me,” one resident who fled the flooding explained. “I kept thinking my house would be swept away by the ocean.”
These days, residents say, everything is facing the water. “In time, it’s likely to be our community under water,” said Babajide Layonu.
Read the full story at the Guardian.
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