Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ancestral Tree kills 31 At Night In Imo

WAILING and anguish now reigns in Umudagu, Mbieri community in Mbaitoli council area of Imo State following the death no fewer than 31 persons. The deaths came as a result of the fall of an ancestral 'Uko' tree estimated to have been over 200 years in existence.

The tree which fell around 8pm, Thursday night, during a rainstorm also left scores of persons injured and about seven others either buried under it's rubble or missing.

The scope of the disaster was vast as a result of the fact that a popular night market simply described as 'Ukwu Uko market' (meaning the market under the 'Uko' tree) is located under the tree.

The market usually started at about 3pm everyday and terminated at about 9.30pm or 10pm.

The tree had been a source of concern to the youths of the village who had repeatedly called for its removal to no avail. Elders of the community had reportedly, described the tree as an ancestral landmark that should not be removed.

Ironically, discussion about the removal of the tree was resumed same day it fell. The meeting to agree on modality  and necessary appeasements to be carried out before its removal was going on in the town hall near the Ukwu Uko market, when the rain began.

The meeting was then adjourned due to the rain and our source who said he was part of the meeting said: "Some of us were still on our way home when we heard the tree crashing down.

On racing back to see what has happened, we met a massive carnage, a scene of blood and mangled flesh. It was a gory sight. And we tried to help as much as we can. Most of our people did not sleep a wink till this (yesterday) morning, as no effort was spared in saving what could be saved."

A motorcycle operator who took our correspondent to the scene of the disaster said he took part in the rescue and confided that, "over 35 persons died in this tragedy, without counting those critically injured who were rushed off to the hospital.

We loaded three ambulance bus-loads of corpses yesterday night. See my hands, I have not even washed it."

About five persons were seen wailing in search of their wards who they said were at the market Thursday night but have since not been seen. Digging for those buried in the rubble yielded only more dead bodies.

The dead body of a baby estimated to be about three years old was said to have also been recovered around 3am on Friday. A severed leg was also left behind while the body of an aged woman was being recovered from the rubble as at press time.

A woman was however rescued alive on Friday morning and rushed to the hospital.

Rescue efforts were hampered by the sheer size of the tree as  it took a caterpillar and other heavy duty machines to move just parts of the tree to enable any substantial rescue work.

On the rescue team, were men of the villages that use the market, members of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps, men of the Fire Service, some health workers and other security operatives.

The area has totally been crowded by people who came to see the umprecendented size of the tragedy.

Culled from Goldmyn

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