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Lagos Building Collapse: Survivors, Witnesses Narrate Experience


Lagos Building Collapse: Survivors, Witnesses Narrate Experience

By Nicholas Kalu, Abuja, Okwy Lroegbu-Chikezie, Tajudeen Adebanjo, Oyebola Owolabi, Toba Adedeji, Osogbo, The Nation

More survivors and witnesses yesterday gave a graphic picture of how the 21-storey building under construction in Ikoyi, Lagos collapsed and how they tried to rescue victims.

How I escaped death, by bricklayer

A bricklayer, Wisdom John, who sustained minor leg injury, told The Nation yesterday night that he was able to escape before the structure collapsed.

He claimed he was just brought in from Cross River State, adding that there were about 55 persons brought from different parts of the country to work there.

According to him, he and 39 others were brought on Sunday, while 15 other artisans joined them on Monday before the building collapsed.

“I am a bricklayer from Cross River State. I was brought in to work in the building. I was working downstairs when we started hearing cracks and some of us decided to know what was happening. I was able to run out before the building finally collapsed. The others were not so lucky. I only sustained injury on my foot.

“We were first 40 artisans working but the owner brought in 15 people today – making 55. I do not know their names since I only came in yesterday.

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“I reported to the agencies on ground (paramedics), but was told to go home since it was only minor foot injury. They said they can’t take me to the hospital,” he said.

An artisan who was working in a nearby building said he and his colleagues felt the vibration of the structure from the property they were working in, adding that they immediately ran out only to hear their colleagues screaming for help.

He said: “We were working besides the building while some others were working inside the collapsed building.

“More than 50 people were working inside this big building when it collapsed. The building started vibrating and the next thing was that it came down.

“One person was pulled out lifeless. The owner, Mr. Femi is inside. We were talking with some of our colleagues who are trapped inside when the building collapsed. We called emergency workers from 2pm but they did not get here till past 4pm (on Monday). We are glad they are here now because it will be faster.

“Since they got here, some others have been rescued. Those ones are alive and were taken to the ambulance.”

Why I joined the rescue team, by dispatch rider

A dispatch rider, Rasheed Olamilekan, who joined the rescue team around 2:30pm on Monday, said they saw about four dead bodies, adding that three persons were rescued alive and taken to the hospital.

He said he was on his way to Ajah, Lagos, when he saw the incident and stopped to render help.

“Immediately I stopped and other people too stopped so we could help those in need. We rescued like three people and we saw like four people who died. We called the emergency many times but nobody came here. I got here around 2:30pm. People were shouting inside the building when we got here,” he said.

‘Six persons were recovered dead and one rescued alive’

A resident, Jerry, however claimed that six persons were recovered dead and one rescued alive before emergency workers arrived the scene.

He said people were initially scared to go into the building the moment it collapsed, adding that they later mustered the courage following the screams of those who were inside.

He said: “I live around this side and I saw how scared people were before we went in. We were able to rescue my friend alive and he was taken to the hospital while we brought out six dead bodies apart from the ones the police rescued.

“You see, immediately the police came in, they sent all of us away and we are not able to continue our rescue mission. I am very sure if the police did not send us out, we would have rescued more people because we were even hearing their voices before they sent us out.

“If I am not mistaken, about 40 to 50 people were in the building before it collapsed. It took over an hour before rescue team came, we were the ones doing the rescuing before they came”.

The late arrival of rescuers led to protests from onlookers who lamented that if adequate equipment were available in good time, more lives would have been saved.

Another witness, who craved anonymity, claimed that some Mobile Policemen were among those trapped in the collapsed building, adding that people were working on various floors of the project.

Three of the nine survivors in the building collapse have been discharged from the hospital, it was learnt yesterday.

Commissioner of Police (CP) Hakeem Odumosu last night said 21 bodies have been recovered while nine persons were rescued.

According to Odumosu, three have been discharged from the hospital leaving six being treated.

Odumosu said he could not confirm whether the owner of the building was trapped under the rubble.

He said: “…we cannot confirm authoritatively until the operation is over and we get to what technically we call ground zero – that is seeing the whole thing. After then, we will now take the roll call; the site engineers will give us the list of those who were employed and who are engaged. Through that one, we will know who remains, but as for now we cannot confirm authoritatively that the developer is there or not.”

Gbajabiamila expresses sympathy

Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday expressed his sympathy over the Lagos building collapse of Monday, which led to the loss of 21 lives.

In a statement by his spokesman, Lanre Lasisi, Gbajabiamila said it was unfortunate that the building collapse happened at a time the Lagos State Government was doing everything possible to make the lives of Lagosians safer.

The Speaker sent his condolences to the families of the victims, noting that he shared in their grief.

Gbajabiamila also sympathised with the government and people of Lagos State over the incident.

He called for adequate measures to forestall future occurrence while urging the relevant authorities to double their efforts at rescuing those trapped in the multi-storey building.

Lagos: our focus to rescue victims

The Lagos State Government has restated its determination to ensure that as many people as possible are rescued alive from the collapsed building at Gerard Road, Ikoyi, as rescue operations continue at the location yesterday.

Deputy Governor Obafemi Hamzat stated while speaking with journalists and relatives of the victims during the monitoring of the ongoing search and rescue operation by agencies of government.

The deputy governor, who was accompanied to the site by top government officials, said the focus of government for now is to ensure that the ongoing rescue operation yields positive result such that those still trapped in the rubble are brought out alive.

He also stated that it will be difficult for now to ascertain the number of the trapped victims noting that the building is still under construction and not yet occupied.

Besides, he hinted that the project site was sealed up for four months by the relevant agency when it was discovered that there were some anomalies in the construction process, and the developer was directed to correct the observed anomalies.

Professionals: it’s lawful to probe, arrest, prosecute owner, officials

The Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS) and Lagos State Bricklayer Association of Nigeria, among others, have said it is lawful to arrest the owner and officials of the collapsed 21-storey building under construction in Ikoyi, Lagos.

The Chairman of NIS, Osun Chapter, Dr. Joseph Fadahunsi, during the investiture programme at White Plain Centre, Osogbo yesterday, noted that many factors are responsible for the collapse of a building.

Highlighting the possible cause of building, he said: “The owner may hire or patronise quacks, relegating the professionals, use of substandard materials and poor investigation of the soil and environment where the structure is erected.”

The Lagos State Bricklayer Association of Nigeria yesterday called that its members be included in the independent panel to be set up to probe the accident.

The association’s president, Oyebamiji Dauda, who spoke to reporters at the accident scene, said his members were ready to assist the government to unravel the mystery behind the incident.

According to him, many factors can be responsible for the accident, but only an investigation conducted by professionals and experts can affirm the actual cause.

Dauda implored building contractors to always use indigenous artisans, who understand the soil component of different locations in the country to avert disasters.

Also, Chairman, Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA), Lagos state Chapter, David Majekodunmi, said government is culpable for not doing the needful.

He lamented that 15 years after the National Building Code (NBC) was enunciated by seven professionals in the built­ environment sector to regulate the construction and building sector during the tenure of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko as minister of Works & Housing, the National Assembly has failed to pass it into law.

He said if it had been passed before, the nation would not be witnessing this kind tragedy and in this magnitude.

A past chairman of Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA), Lagos chapter, Femi Shodunke, in a statement, said the collapse is the worst and most terrible case of building collapse in the annals of building failures in Nigeria.

“The world would be awaiting the outcome of what really went amiss and how to stem similar future occurrences.”

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