Buhari commiserates with victims’ families
A distressed three-storey building, which collapsed in the Ebute Metta area of Lagos State, has claimed the lives of 10 tenants, including a member of the National Youth Service Corps, identified only as Oluwakemi.
No fewer than 24 occupants were also injured in the tragic incident, which happened on Sunday.
Our correspondent, who visited the scene of the incident on Monday, observed that some of the injured victims were treated on the spot and discharged.
However, others who sustained severe injuries, after being stabilised by emergency responders at the incident scene, were rushed to a general hospital for further treatment.
PUNCH Metro gathered that occupants of the three-storey building were in their various apartments when it caved in around 9.30pm.
While some occupants were lucky enough to navigate their way out of the collapsed structure, others were trapped beneath the rubble.
Before the arrival of emergency responders, some members of the community searched the rubble and rescued the trapped victims.
One of the survivors, Isaac Irhrhi, who escaped death by a whisker, said he came out with members of his family.
He said, “I am speechless; I give glory to God for being alive. Friends, children, mothers have died, but my family and I came out alive. When the building collapsed, it sounded like thunder as everything went down.
“My flat is on the last floor, so I was able to break the ceiling to create a way to see outside. My wife, child and neighbours were calling me, so I directed them to where I was and started pulling them out. Aside from my wife and child, I was able to pull two neighbours out of the rubble.”
A mother of two, Kehinde Enifeni, a tenant in a house beside the collapsed building, said the structure fell and blocked the entrance to her flat, adding that she and her children escaped by breaking the window.
She said, “I was shocked when I heard the noise, but as I attempted opening the door, I couldn’t. I broke our fence and the structure fell on our compound and blocked our entrance, including the window of my parlour.
“I began crying; my husband started shouting my name and saying I should rush into the room. I quickly rushed there, got a knife, cut the net of the window in the room, but the window had burglary-proof bars.
Suddenly, some guys came from nowhere and started breaking the burglary-proof bars and we all came out through the window. My neighbour, Alfa, and his family used a ladder to climb down into the compound because the rubble also blocked the entrance to his flat.”
Another resident, Lanre Shobaloju, said the tragedy occurred due to government negligence, lamenting that the building had been in a bad condition for years.
He said, “The government has been sealing and unsealing the place for more than four times. The last result, which is the collapse, is what they wanted and the building has killed people, including youths.
“One of my agents, Toheeb, lost his life. A young boy, Chinonso, also lost his life; Khalid, who was aspiring to go to university, also lost his life. LASBCA was here to seal the place and it is surprising that the agency still allowed people to reside in the building.
“There is a chance that the agency’s officials were bribed. The tragedy should have been averted if the tenants had been evacuated as I have been complaining that all the pillars and decking of the building had become weak.
“The house was built by a developer about 22 years ago and from what we gathered, the developer would have handed over the building to its owners on May 31 until it collapsed yesterday.”
Emergency responders, including the National Emergency Management Agency, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Lagos State Fire and Rescue Services, Lagos State Building Control Agency, police, and Red Cross were sighted at the scene of the incident on Monday.
Our correspondent observed as two excavators driven by emergency officials made attempts to locate other trapped victims.
As the excavators dug deeper and pierced through concrete and iron rods, the lifeless bodies of 10 occupants, including children, were recovered and placed in body bags.
A crowd of onlookers and sympathisers were seen crying profusely as emergency officials carried the corpses in body bags into vehicles for onward transfer to a mortuary.
A trader in one of the shops in the affected building, Francis Egbuonu, while recounting his losses, said valuables amounting to N10m were lost to the incident.
He said, “I took delivery of new goods on Saturday and deposited them there to take to another location on Monday, but the building collapsed on Sunday and destroyed most of my goods valued at about N10m.”
As of the time our correspondent left the scene of the incident, the search and rescue operations were still ongoing.
Addressing journalists at the scene of the incident, the Coordinator, NEMA, Ibrahim Farinloye, said the 10 victims who lost their lives to the incident consisted of four females and six males.
He said, “The incident was said to have started around 9.30pm and since that time, the first responders, who were the community members, came in and they really assisted before the arrival of statutory agencies.
“When we got there, we had about 20 people rescued. So far, we have about 24 people rescued alive and 10 recovered dead.
“The body of an NYSC lady, Oluwakemi, was discovered and removed. Her father identified her; she was found with her phone in her hand. Operation is still ongoing; we are not sure if we will still see more until we get to ground zero.
“From indications and comments, the building has been distressed for a long time and we learnt that they (tenants) were given notices to move out, but some of them moved while others refused to move.”
Farinloye noted that the landlord’s son, who was managing the building, stated that he had given the tenants quit notices, but they refused to leave.
“He (landlord’s son) revealed that he had to leave the building and he rented an apartment in the same vicinity. He further stated that rental fees had not been paid for a long time,” he added.
The Permanent Secretary, LASEMA, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said casualties with severe injuries were transferred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja.
He said, “On arrival at the incident scene, an old three-storey building, comprising rooms and parlours, was discovered to have collapsed. Further information gathered revealed that the incident occurred around 10.56pm with an undetermined number of people trapped.
“Search and rescue ongoing; 23 adults rescued alive and 10 bodies recovered.
“Building and adjoining structures are being secured before the affected building will be levelled to ground zero. All key stakeholders are working together at the scene. Further updates to follow.”
The Head, Lagos State Fire and Rescue Services, Margaret Adeseye, said all the first and major responders were still collaborating to mop up the incident scene.
She said, “Twenty four were rescued alive with varying degrees of injury and all in stable condition, including two that are responding to treatment. Ten were suspected dead — six males and four females.”
Meanwhile, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has commiserated with the families of those who died and sustained injuries in the collapsed building.
Buhari, in a statement on Monday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, lamented the “embarrassing” frequency of building collapse in the country.
The statement read, “The President, who is pained by this tragic incident, salutes the courage and determination of the first responders, national and sub-national emergency agencies in Lagos State, and compassionate Nigerians, whose immediate action in the aftermath of the collapse of the three-storey building led to the rescue of several persons, including many children.
“Regrettably, the President notes that the frequency of building collapse in the country has become increasingly embarrassing, urging relevant state authorities to work closely with professional bodies to put a halt to these unfortunate but preventable incidents.”
Also, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, in a statement on Monday, sympathised with the Lagos State Government and families of those who lost their lives in the incident.
“It is also important that those in charge of ensuring the construction of standard buildings in the country ensure that the highest standards are met to avoid these tragedies,” she added.