Chiemelie Ezeobi and Peace Obi
No fewer than 18 persons, including a mother, her baby and 13 adults, mainly construction workers, were killed on Tuesday, when a five-storey incomplete building collapsed at the Lekki Gardens Estate located beside the Chisco bus stop in the Ikate area of Lekki in Lagos.
Also 13 persons were rescued alive with varying degree of injuries from the rubble, even as scores were still feared trapped under the debris of the construction site.
THISDAY gathered that construction of the five-storey building, which is one of two buildings under construction in the same compound, started about four months ago and had 30 flats each.
Although rescue operations were still ongoing as at last night, the casualty rate of 18 was the number of deceased persons brought out from the debris of the collapsed building by yesterday evening.
It was gathered that the building collapsed at about 4.30 am following a heavy downpour and winds that levelled it, burying scores of people underneath the rubble.
Immediately news of the incident filtered out, emergency responders drawn from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Federal and State Fire Service and the police stormed the area.
The emergency workers, with the help of local rescuers, were at first able to evacuate one body and rescued four survivors as at 7.30am.
By 7.49am, two more dead bodies were brought out, while the number of survivors remained at four. By 8.08 am, another dead body was brought out and another victim rescued, increasing the number of dead persons and survivors to four and five respectively.
Another survivor was rescued at 8.48am and at 1.11pm, the total figure of casualties and survivors remained at seven apiece.
The figure later changed to eight survivors and seven dead persons by 1.20pm and changed again to nine survivors at 2.27pm before it again rose to 10 injured survivors at 3.11pm.
At 3.40pm, the death toll had risen to 11 persons and at 4pm, the body of a middle-aged woman clutching her infant son was brought out amidst tears by onlookers.
At exactly 4.30pm, two other persons were brought out alive but before they could be moved to the ambulance, they breathed their last.
In an interview with THISDAY, NEMA South-west spokesperson, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said rescue operations would continue until they get to the ground floor.
He said: “Those rescued alive were first treated by medical personnel attached to the Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS) before they were moved to Lagos General Hospital. The bodies of the dead ones have since been deposited at the mortuary.”
On the possible cause of why the building collapsed, General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Mr. Shola Adeigbe, blamed it on a structural defect.
He said: “I learned that there was an approval for the building from the district officer. The materials used for the construction were of poor quality. It was a foundation failure because it sank before collapsing.
“We will subject the entire building to structural stability test. The only thing for us is to ensure that they construct with quality materials.”
Speaking on those still trapped underneath the building, the leader of the Hausa community in the area, Babangida Bello, said they were able to identify those that were still trapped.
He said: “I was informed that the building my brother works in collapsed and so I rushed to the scene. We have been able to identify the names and number of those that were trapped under the rubble. They are Umar, Ado, Alu, Muhammed, Jemilu, Sabiu and Saminu.”
When THISDAY left the site last night, the official casualty rate had risen to 18 while 13 survivors had been rescued.
Rescue efforts were ongoing all through the night with the aid of hastily fixed lightening to ensure no one was still left trapped under the rubble.
In addition, policemen from Ajah were deployed to secure the site. Also at the scene was the Commander, Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Tunde Disu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, who alongside his men provided security.
They were assisted by security personnel drawn from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority ( LASTMA) and the neighbourhood watch.