12 dead, 40 rescued, scores still trapped in Lagos building collapse
A three-storey building collapsed in Lagos, yesterday, killing 12 and trapping scores of residents and school children.
The building, located on No. 44, Massey Street, off Ita-Faji Market, on Lagos Island, which also housed Ohen Nursery and Primary School, reportedly collapsed at about 10:00am.
The pupils werereportedly in their classrooms when the building caved in on them.
So far, 12 casualties were confirmed by residents, while 26 survivors, including a pregnant woman were rescued and are receiving treatment in hospital.
As expected, parents stormed the school in search of their children. While many were lucky to reunite with their wards, several others were apprehensive and hopeful that their children would be brought out alive.
Among those rescued alive were a teacher, the landlord of the building and eight tenants. A parent, Jide Adebayo, whose five-year-old, Khalid, was yet to be rescued, said he was informed about the incident by a neighbour.
Refusing to be consoled at the scene of the crash was Iya Ibeji. She claimed her sister’s three children; Amina, Yussuf and Mubarak Oloyode were yet to be rescued and that their mother, Ganiyat, fainted when she heard the sad news and was yet to be revived in the hospital.
Reports indicated that the building which had shownsigns of defect, for years, had been marked for demolition, three times, by the Lagos State Government. Residents disclosed that there were visible cracks running down the back of the building.
The school, it was noted, occupied the penthouse, second and third floor. The first floor was occupied by tenants, while the ground floor consisted of a warehouse and some shops.
The casualty rate was high because the building had over 20 rooms; with about eight people living in a room.
It was speculated that the casualty rate for the pupils may not be high as speculated because the pupils were out of the classrooms, for their Physical Exercise, and were taken out by some teachers, in batches.
Eyewitnesses said the school is about four years old and used to occupy a building in front of the collapsed one before it recently moved to its present site.
While rescue operations were ongoing, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, visited the collapse scene and commiserated with families of those that lost their lives.
He described the accident as unfortunate and noted that “all is being done by bringing in additional cranes to be able to go deeper than where we are now to rescue more lives.
“I just want to appeal to people that, when we are doing this kind of rescue operation, yes, sympathisers would naturally come, but, I want to appeal that they should give rescue workers the chance to save more lives,” he said.
The governor said his Deputy, Dr. Oluranti Adebule, had also visited hospitals where some of the victims rescued had been taken to, assuring that the state government would immediately take over their treatment and foot the bill.
“The deputy governor is in the hospital actually taking care of those that were rescued and taken to the hospital most especially the children. On the part of government, we would immediately take care of whatever it is that we can do, including the hospital bills.
“All we are interested in now is to save more lives and also see how those that have been rescued are put in proper place and proper care,” he said.
Reviewing the situation, the governor said he received information that the building was residential, with the school operating illegally within the premises, and added that about two floors of the building sunk under the ground.
Ambode said most of the buildings in the area had been marked for demolition, but that some property owners in the area defied such notices.
He, however, assuring that going forward, structurally defective buildings would be demolished.
“The first observation is that this is an old building.
“So far, from what I have been told, some people have been rescued and some people are already dead but, we were earlier informed that it was a school. The building is not technically a school, it is a residential building that was actually accommodating an illegal school, so to speak, on the second floor.
“As we have said, we have been carrying out a lot of integrity tests on the buildings in this neighborhood and, as you can see, some of them have been marked for demolition but, we get resistance from landlords, but, we must continue to save lives and we will intensify our efforts to see that those have failed our integrity test, we would ensure that they are quickly evacuated and we bring the structures down,” he said.
Governor Ambode also said a full-scale investigation would be carried out immediately rescue operations are concluded, and vowed that those found culpable would be severely dealt with in accordance with the relevant laws.
“This is unfortunate but we will investigate what has happened and also see the punishment for whoever are the culprits. That is the secondary level but the most important thing right now is to save lives and I just appeal to people that they should give us the chance to save more lives,” he said.
He assured that rescue operations would continue until all victims are rescued.
“That is what is important to us and the more lives we save, the better for us,” he said.
It was gathered that there were plans by the developer to construct around the old building and that attempts to dig around the property, few days ago, could have weakened the foundation.
A source disclosed that buildings in the area would undergo integrity test as they had been marked for demolition and assured that any building that fails the test would be demolished.
Speaking on the incident, the Lagos State Management Agency (LASEMA) said search-and-rescue operation would continue till all those trapped are rescued.
The LASEMA Managing Director, Adesina Tiamiyu, said victims were rescued alive from the collapsed building, through the combined efforts of LASEMA and other emergency responders including Lagos State Ambulance Service, Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Federal Fire Service. Others includes National Emergency Management Agency, Nigeria Police Force, Rapid Response Squad, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. Nigeria Red Cross Society, and Lagos State Neighborhood and Safety Corps.
On speculations that many are still trapped under the rubble, Adesina said rescue operations would be gradual and painstaking, “so as not to further endanger the lives of those trapped underneath the rubble.”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari said he is extremely saddened by the tragedy, especially as it affects children and has charged the state government to do all that is needful, so that such tragic developments do not recur in future.