Not less than Ten persons, including four pupils, were feared dead on Wednesday following the collapse of a building on No. 63 Massey Street, Ita Faaji area of Lagos Island.
About 50 other persons had been pulled out of the rubble alive as of the time of going to press.
According to Pun ch Metro, the three-storey building, which housed a school, Ohen Nursery and Primary School, and residential apartments, caved in around 10am.
Reports have it that rescue operation was ongoing and the total casualty figure could not be immediately ascertained.
Rescue equipment from the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency had been deployed in the site.
Other emergency responders such as the Lagos State Ambulance Service, Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Federal Fire Service, National Emergency Management Agency, Nigeria Police Force, Rapid Response Squad, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Red Cross Society and the Lagos State Neighbourhood and Safety Corps were also present.
A resident of the area, identified simply as Iya Segun, said the building collapsed as a result of its dilapidated state, alleging that government officials responsible for inspecting and certifying buildings for habitation had always turned a blind eye after being bribed by the owners.
The son of the owner of the building, Erinoluwa Akinmoladun, said the house was under the management of a developer, whom he identified only as Mr Giwa.
He said the construction of the building was completed in 2010 by the developer, who was supposed to manage it for 10 years.
One Erinoluwa, who was at the scene assisting rescue workers, added that his father had been rescued, but was not sure if all his siblings had been pulled out from the debris.
No fewer than four pupils were brought in dead and 42 names were made available by the management as those rescued and responding to treatment.
A mother of three, identified simply as Iya Sukura, whose children attend the school, said two were in critical conditions, while her first daughter was still trapped.
A man, Mr Yekini Ayoola, said his five-year-old grandson, Fawaz, was still trapped in the rubble of the building.
The father of a survivor, Tony Ikueze, said his eight-year-old daughter, Chiamaka, had gone to the school on her own.
“She is my last born. She went on her own to the school this morning, because it is not far from where we live. I was in the bathroom and saw the building collapse when I looked through the window. At first, I thought it was a bomb blast. I thank God that my daughter survived it,” Ikueze said.
Punch’s correspondent witnessed a scene where an 11-year-old pupil, Taofeekat Rasheed, was about to be wheeled to the morgue and her family insisted that she should be handed over to them for burial according to Islamic rites, but she suddenly showed signs of life as she opened her eyes faintly.
A cardio pulmonary resuscitation was carried out on her and she was immediately taken to the emergency room.
Due to pressure on the Lagos Island General Hospital, many victims were being referred to the Massey Children Hospital and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba.
According to the General Manager, LASEMA, Mr Adeshina Tiamiyu, the number of casualties cannot be ascertained until the rescue operation is over.
“So far, we have been able to rescue over 40 people. When we finish the rescue operation we can give an accurate number of the victims in collaboration with the medical personnel,” he stated.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Elkana Bala, said 50 pupils and eight tenants had been rescued, adding that only the medical personnel could ascertain their state of health and the number of the dead.
However, the zonal spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, gave the figure of the dead as eight and those rescued alive as 37.
The Deputy Governor, Lagos State, Dr Oluranti Adebule, who sympathised with the parents of the pupils at the Lagos Island General Hospital, implored them to allow the medical personnels to look after the injured.
“I have gone in to see the children and most of them are in stable conditions. We are begging you to allow the medical team to look after your children. We know that you are pained and we can feel that you are hurt. Every minuets count. The Lord will heal them all and grant them speedy recovery,” she said.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who got to the scene of the building collapse around 2.42pm, described the incident as unfortunate, and appealed to residents to allow rescuers to carry out their operations without any hindrance
He stated, “I want to commiserate with the families of those who lost their lives in this collapsed building. I want to quickly let Lagosians know that this is quite an unfortunate incident. All we are trying to do is to scale up the rescue operation.
“Our response units are already here; we are getting additional cranes to be able to go deeper than where we are now to rescue more trapped victims.”
The governor also gave the assurance that the state government would take over the treatment and foot the bills of the victims.
Ambode said most of the buildings in the area had been marked for demolition, but that some property owners in the area had defied demolition notices, but added that going forward, structurally defective buildings would be demolished.
He added, “So far, from the briefing that I have received, we have rescued about 25 people and some 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.
“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.”
Reacting to the incident, President Muhammadu Buhari said he was extremely saddened by the collapse of the building, which claimed lives, including schoolchildren.
He condoled with the families of the victims and the Lagos State Government, and wished those who were injured speedy recovery.
“It touches one to lose precious lives in any kind of incident, particularly those so young and tender. May God grant everyone affected by this sad incident fortitude and succour,” a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as saying.
The President asked the state government to put structures in place to ensure that such tragedies did not occur again.
In a post on Twitter, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, consoled the families of those who were affected by the collapse.
He said “My heartfelt prayers are with all the families affected by today’s building collapse in the Ita Faaji area of Lagos Island, particularly the young schoolchildren, who are reportedly trapped inside. I pray for their safe rescue.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, expressed “deep sadness” over the death of the pupils following the collapse of the building.
Dogara, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, said it was heart-breaking that “innocent souls would perish in such a dreadful manner” and called for a thorough investigation of the unfortunate incident.
He said, “This is one too many of these building collapses that usually claim the lives of innocent people. It is time for decisive actions to be taken against all found culpable of breach of building standards that end up in disasters.
“The law enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies must step up their game and put an end to the practice of cutting corners to increase gain. While this has not been established as the cause of this incident yet, past incidents have pointed to this as a serious factor.
“I commiserate with the families of the deceased and pray that their souls rest in peace.”