Africa's most populous city may soon be unlivable, experts warn

Cars and houses submerged in water, commuters wading through buses knee-high in floods, and homeowners counting the cost of destroyed properties.

Africa's most populous city may soon be unlivable, experts warn

Cars and houses submerged in water, commuters wading through buses knee-high in floods, and homeowners counting the cost of destroyed properties.

Welcome to Lagos during rainy season.

Residents of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, are used to the yearly floods that engulf the coastal city during the months of March to November.

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In mid-July, however, the major business district of Lagos Island experienced one of its worst floods in recent years.

"It was very bad, and unusual," Eselebor Oseluonamhen, 32 told CNN.

"I drove out of my house ... I didn't realise it had rained so much ... There was heavy traffic on my route because of the flood. The more we went, the higher the water level. The water kept rising until it covered the bumper of my car ... then there was water flowing inside my car," Oseluonamhen, who runs a media firm on the Lagos mainland, recalled.

Photos and videos posted to social media showed dozens of vehicles inundated with water after torrential rain. The floods paralyse economic activity, at an estimated cost of around US$4b per year.

Home to more than 24 million people, Lagos, a low-lying city on Nigeria's Atlantic coast, may become uninhabitable by the end of this century as sea levels rise due to climate change, scientific projections suggest.

The problem is exacerbated by "inadequate and poorly maintained drainage systems and uncontrolled urban growth," among others, according to a study led by the Institute of Development Studies.

Nigeria's hydrological agency NIHSA has predicted more catastrophic flooding in September, usually the peak of the rainy season.

Eroding coastline

Lagos is partly built on the mainland and a string of islands.

It is grappling with an eroding coastline that makes the city vulnerable to flooding, which Nigerian environmentalist Seyifunmi Adebote says is attributable to global warming and "human-induced action over a prolonged period."

Sand mining for construction is a major contributor to shoreline erosion in Lagos, environmental experts have said.

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Manzo Ezekiel, a spokesman for Nigeria's emergency management agency (NEMA), told CNN that the riverbank of Lagos' Victoria Island is already being "washed away ... particularly in the V.I area of Lagos."

"There's this problem of the river bank being washed away. The increase in water level is eating into the land," Ezekiel added.

In Victoria Island, an affluent Lagos neighbourhood - an entirely new coastal city christened 'Eko Atlantic' - is being built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean, and will be protected from rising waters by an 8 kilometre-long wall made from concrete blocks, developers say.

While the ambitious project could contribute to reducing housing shortages in other parts of the city, Ezekiel fears that "reclaiming land from the sea will put pressure on other coastal areas."

Other critics have argued that adjacent areas not protected by the wall will be left vulnerable to tidal surges. CNN has contacted Eko Atlantic for comment.

Coastal cities at risk of being submerged

Low-lying coastal cities in some parts of the world may be permanently submerged by 2100, one study's findings showed. The study published by research group Climate Central stated that affected areas could sink below the high-tide line if sea levels continue to rise.

"As a result of heat-trapping pollution from human activities, rising sea levels could within three decades push chronic floods higher than land currently home to 300 million people," the study said. "By 2100, areas now home to 200 million people could fall permanently below the high tide line," it added.

Global sea levels have been predicted to rise more than 2 metres by the end of this century.

This leaves Lagos, which experts say is less than two metres above sea, in a precarious state, given that a chunk of Nigeria's coastline is low-lying. In a study from 2012, the UK's University of Plymouth found that a sea-level rise of just 1 to 3 metres "will have a catastrophic effect on the human activities" in Nigerian coastal environments.

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Adebote told CNN that Lagos' fate "would depend on how we prioritise this science prediction and what corresponding actions we take as a response." "It is only a matter of time before nature pushes back and this could be a disaster," he added.

Nigeria deadly floods

Perennial flooding in Nigeria's coastal areas has left many dead and scores displaced. According to NEMA data, more than 2 million people were directly affected by flooding in 2020.

At least 69 people lost their lives in flood disasters last year. In 2019, more than 200,000 people were affected by floods with 158 fatalities.

"Every year we witness flooding in Nigeria. It is a problem that climate change has brought and we are living with it," Ezekiel told CNN.

Beyond Lagos' vulnerability to climate change, poor drainage systems and clogged street gutters in large swathes of the city are believed to have escalated its flooding challenges.

"As much as climate change plays a part in rising sea levels, what you can see in this video is predominantly a drainage system issue," a social media user tweeted while reacting to a video of the recent flooding in Lagos.

However, as flooding rages in some areas, low-income neighbourhoods constructed on reclaimed wetlands have to contend with sinking buildings.

Keeping Lagos afloat

Adebote told CNN that for Lagos to stay afloat in the face of floods and rising sea levels, it must adapt to climate change.

"We need to look at our infrastructures - drainage systems, waste management facilities, housing structures ... How resilient and adaptive are these infrastructures in the face of environmental pressures and when put side-by-side with our growing population?" he said.

Aerial view of Lagos Island in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria.

Authorities in Lagos have since commenced the clearing of the state's water channels to mitigate perennial flooding.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has also expressed the country's willingness to partner with global allies in tackling climate change.

"We look forward working with President [Joe] Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris. We have great hope and optimism for the strengthening of existing cordial relationships, working together to tackle global terrorism, climate change, poverty, and to improve economic ties and trade," Buhari wrote in a January tweet.

But Adebote remarks that government responses to climate action "have been largely poor."

"There is a lot that must be done and will take consistent and deliberate actions on the parts of various stakeholders for Nigeria to properly take climate actions, especially in adapting to the impacts that are already threatening our livelihood," he added.

An environmental activist, Olumide Idowu, urged government authorities to partner with the private sector in order to boost funds to tackle the issues.

"Government should look at private sector partnerships in order for them to drive climate finance to solve the flooding issues," Idowu told CNN.

Nigeria's economy has struggled in recent years, shrinking financing for climate change and other critical sectors. Authorities are nonetheless still pledging to ramp up the country's climate change response.

Last month, Nigeria's Ministry of Environment announced a presidential approval for a revamped national policy on climate change, aimed at addressing "most, if not all, of the challenges posed by climate change and climate vulnerability in the country," a spokesman for the ministry wrote in Twitter post.

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NSW records 207 new local COVID-19 cases

To help the growing outbreak, from today Australian Defence Force personnel will support police lockdown operations in Sydney.

NSW records 207 new local COVID-19 cases

NSW has recorded 207 new cases of COVID-19, with at least 50 of those infectious in the community. 

There was another record day of testing yesterday, with 117,000 people coming forward. 

"It shows the community is responding to our calls to maintain the high rights of testing," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. 

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She said workplaces remained the central drivers of the increasing cases. 

A man in his 90s has died after contracting COVID-19, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant has said. 

He was linked to the outbreak in the aged care ward at Liverpool Hospital. 

Dr Chant said the man had received one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Ms Berejiklian has called on NSW residents to make August the month they get vaccinated. 

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She said authorities didn't know of anybody in intensive care who had received both doses of the vaccine. 

"In particular our efforts will be focused this week and next week on businesses, on workers who are working in those local government areas (of concern) and having to go out of those eight local government areas in particular, but also people aged between 20 and 40," she said. 

Nursing home outbreak

Dr Chant said 18 patients and two staff at the Wyoming Nursing Home in Summer Hill, also known as Hardi Summer Hill, had been caught up in the facility's COVID-19 outbreak. 

"The positive patients have been removed from that facility and, as a precaution, the remainder of residents of that facility are also being removed," she said. 

"The outbreak is occurring on that top floor and that action has been taken as a precautionary approach.  

"I can confirm that 83 percent of the patients were vaccinated and 75 percent of staff at the facility were vaccinated." 

The residents are from Wyoming Nursing Home in Summer Hill, also known as Hardi Summer Hill.

Freight, food distribution workplaces spreading outbreak

Dr Chant has listed freight and food processing workplaces as areas of concern for spreading COVID-19. 

"Because of the good processes that people have put in place, they haven't led to large numbers of cases," she said.  

"But they are obviously complex because we need to keep those workplaces operational and we need to do a lot of work, in terms of finding out the close contacts on those big work places." 

She urged people in essential workplaces to avoid social areas like the kitchen or tea room. 

Lockdown could lift in regions before August 28

Ms Berejiklian said some areas could emerge from lockdown ahead of the end of August, depending on health advice. 

"If the health experts tell us that the Central Coast, Shellharbour and Wollongong are able to be treated as regional NSW, we will take that advice," she said.  

"It is positive that we have seen very low numbers in those regions. If the health experts say to the NSW government those communities can be treated the same as the rest of regional NSW, we will take that advice."

Living in lockdown 'not a success' Premier says

Ms Berejiklian has admitted that lockdown is never a mark of "success". 

Asked if the consistent rates of people infectious in the community were a sign the lockdown had failed, she said, "it is not a success when you have your community living in lockdown". 

Empty streets in Campbelltown as the region enters a stricter lockdown.

"What future success will be is having our population live as safely and as freely as possible," she added.

"I don't think anybody will suggest, least of all me, that living in a lockdown is a good place to be. It is horrible. 

"We know we have no option at this stage." 

Premier 'confident' schools will be open before 2022

Ms Berejiklian has said she is "confident" schools will re-open before 2022. 

However, she has refused to commit to it, saying any decision would be based on health advice. 

"I can't predict the future but I certainly am confident that schools will go back before then," she said. 

She said getting people back to work and back to school was the government's priority. 

Troops on the streets

Hundreds of Australian Defence Force personnel are taking to the streets across Sydney from today, ensuring residents across the city's COVID-19 hotspot suburbs are following the rules.

The highly-visible presence comes as the NSW Premier says the state could see an easing of lockdown restrictions when adult vaccination rates hit 50 per cent.

Around 300 troops will be helping police with compliance checks from this morning, making sure close contacts of confirmed cases are isolating at home.

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The ADF will be door knocking homes across all of the eight high-risk LGAs including Blacktown, Cumberland, Parramatta, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Georges River and Liverpool.

That's because a majority of the state's coronavirus cases are in those regions and authorities have the next four weeks to contain the spread of the highly infectious Delta strain.

The Navy has also been called on to help with contact tracing.

NSW recorded 239 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 yesterday to equal Thursday's record-breaking figure as the highest yet seen since the start of the pandemic.

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Ms Berejiklian says vaccinations could be Sydney's golden ticket out of lockdown, hinting some restrictions could ease restrictions at the end of the month if jab rates increase.

The current four-week lockdown extension is due to be lifted on August 28.

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The newly opened South Western Sydney Vaccination Centre at Macquarie Fields.

"Let August be the month we break records and vaccinations because that is how we get freedom," Ms Berejiklian said.

She noted that the state needed to reach 9.2 million jabs to achieve a vaccination rate of 70 per cent and more than 10 million to reach 80 per cent - the vaccination coverage required to reach the next stages of the Commonwealth government's pathway out of the pandemic.

"But we know that it is also incremental ... once we hit milestones, once you get to 50 per cent vaccination, 60 per cent, 70 per cent it obviously triggers more freedoms," Ms Berejiklian said.

As of yesterday, 19 per cent of NSW adults had been fully vaccinated.

NSW was vaccinating about 500,000 people a week but the Premier says that could be increased as more pharmacies start administrating shots and the government opens more hubs.

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