Towards the end of every year, the nation is besieged with a different kind of weather. The weather, which comes during the Yuletide season is known as the harmattan. It comes with its own aura and many prefer it to the cold and hot weather. The harmattan is a hot, dry and dusty wind (continental trade wind) blowing over West Africa.
Expectedly, the harmattan brings desert-like weather conditions, which lowers the humidity, dissipates cloud cover, prevents rainfall formation and sometimes, creates big clouds of dust or sand, which can even result in violent dust-storms or sandstorms; but when the haze effect is weak, this dry wind creates beautiful sunny days with plenty of clear skies.
With the haze hitting parts of the country, especially Lagos State, it is expected that the harmattan will come with mixed feeling. Perhaps, one of the disadvantages of this dry weather is disruption of flight operations in the country, especially from Lagos.
Due to the dry weather, the possibility of fire outbreaks is usually high at this time of the year. Also, as the dryness in the atmosphere increases, people are prone to be infected with various airborne diseases.
To forestall the outbreaks of fire, the Lagos State government has warned citizens against indiscriminate bush burning and careless handling of naked fire in cigarettes, firewood and cooking stoves.
Commissioner for the Environment, Babatunde Adejare, who sounded this note of warning at an interactive section with reporters in Ikeja yesterday, said the warning became necessary to avoid disasters in the state.
Adejare, who noted that harmattan currently being experienced in the state would subside by the end of February 2017 with intermittent breaks in January, urged Lagos residents to take precautionary measures by making sure that they install fire extinguishers in homes, offices, market places and motor parks.
According to him: “As our environment becomes dusty and hazy with dryness to everything including trees, wooden items, leaves and furniture, we urge residents to be extremely careful with fire to prevent outbreaks because fire is nobody’s friend.”
Adejare urged residents to always switch off electrical appliances in their offices at the close of work and at homes when leaving for work or other endeavours as a way of preventing fire disasters, which are often rampant during the harmattan period, while motorists should ensure that they have fire extinguishers in their vehicles, maintain speed limits and observe road signs.
He also warned Lagosians to avoid bush and solid waste burning as this may lead to fire outbreak as well as to desist from the storage of petrol and other inflammable materials at homes, offices, shops and markets as their storage could aid fire outbreak, especially at this harmattan period when virtually all objects in the environment are dry and combustible.
Meanwhile, flight operations to northern parts of the country has picked up as poor visibility occasioned by the harmattan haze that crippled operations since Monday has improved.
It would be recalled that many parts of the country experienced zero visibility for a couple of days leading to cancellations and delays of flights.
Flights to Kano and Yola were canceled on Monday due to bad weather as the harmattan haze crept in from the Sahara Desert, which saw visibility drop to about 400 meters.
Total shutdown of flights to northern states was recorded on Tuesday as no flight operated into the Kano, Maiduguri, Kebbi and Sokoto airports, but a few flights were recorded by Wednesday.
An airport official, who pleaded anonymity, said the situation had improved with flights to Maiduguri, Kano and Sokoto.
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) had predicted thick dust haze with visibility expected to be around 1,000m over most parts since Monday.
By Bertram Nwannekanma I The Guardian