By the time Ifeanyin Ashley returned home from work, floodwaters had swept through his bungalow which housed his wife, children, and parents in Ogbaru, in Nigeria’s south-eastern Anambra state, leaving his armchairs soaked and his bed covered in mud.
Because the water had nearly reached knee level, he had to raise his belongings out of harm’s way. Now, the only things still in their usual place are two photo frames hung on the wall.
“I have to stay here,” Mr Ashley says as he sits in the canoe he has been using to get into his home. “If I leave, thieves may loot my house, or it becomes a breeding ground for reptiles. We cannot also go to the farm.”
He was lucky.
Some of his neighbours are taking refuge at the community town hall, some in hospital lobbies, or churches as their homes have been totally submerged.
Elsewhere in Kogi, one of the worst-hit states, Habeebat Lawal’s house was inundated before it collapsed, and she could not save her belongings as she fled to shelter in a primary school.
“Even when the flood subsides, we don’t have anywhere to go,” she says. “No food, no money to buy cement, zinc, no money to rent a new house.”
Some Nigerian states, especially coastal ones where water flows into the River Niger – Africa’s third-longest river and by far the most important in West Africa – and the Benue River, are no strangers to such problems.
But this year’s deluge in Nigeria is among the worst the country has ever seen.
A decade ago, the worst flooding in more than 40 years in Nigeria claimed 431 lives and forced nearly two million people to leave their homes. This year’s devastation has seen even more deaths.
More than 600 lives have been lost, with thousands injured and about 1.3 million displaced, according to the country’s ministry of humanitarian affairs. Hundreds of thousands of houses as well as vast tracts of farmland have also been destroyed.
The unprecedented damage has been attributed to numerous factors.
These include poor drainage systems in many residential areas, with the channels often clogged with waste.
This is not helped by lax enforcement of environmental laws. Indiscriminate construction on natural floodplains and storm-water paths exacerbate the problem.
When heavy rains fall, it gets even worse.
This year’s rain has been unprecedented and “well above the flood situation in 2012,” says Water Resources Minister Suleiman Adamu.
“At Lokoja, the confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue, in 2012 the gauge reading was about 12.84 metres but as of October it has reached 13.22 metres,” he said.