Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello were among early visitors to the venue of a collapsed building in Abuja, where two people died, three injured and more than 15 others were trapped.
However, Bello who supervised rescue operations, said adequate emergency medical care would be given to the victims.
The building located at Sector Centre B, behind THISDAY office in Abuja was said to have been built in 1997 and later abandoned for more than 20 years before the owner decided to increase the number of floors of the already soaked building.
THISDAY gathered that it was in the process of casting another floor that tragedy struck around 1:30p.m on Friday, which instantly claimed the life of the site engineer and one other person.
However, eye witnesses decried slow response of rescue teams who they said did not come until after more than one hour.
It was also gathered that one of the persons trapped inside the collapsed building was making call to someone on the outside before they lost communication with him.
Real rescue operations started at about 4:10pm when Julius Berger, one of the biggest construction companies in the country mobilised its heavy equipment to the collapse site.
Although, government agencies like National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), FCT Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Fire Service, Civil Defence, Red Cross, Police, VIO, FRSC were already on ground before the arrival of the construction giant, they could do little because they lacked the right equipment to carry out the operation.
The Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute was among the first government agency that arrived the place.
The team led by their Director General, Prof. Danladi Matawal took samples from the collapsed building for testing to ascertain the real cause of the collapse.
An eye witness, Comrade Tersoo Achin, whose office is located opposite the collapsed building, said they were able to rescue five people before rescue teams arrived. He confirmed two deaths and three taken to the hospital.
He said: “They were doing casting on the third floor, the building has been here for 20 years. It is an old structure. When we heard a loud bang, we rushed there; the only people we were able to rescue were five. Two died on the spot, three were severely injured, we had to rush them to Gwarinpa General Hospital unconscious.
“But what pains me so much is that there is a lot of shenanigans. I heard that this building is owned by a former minister of this country, Godswill Orubebe and this building has been here for more than 20 years.
“What pains me the most is that the Development Control department of the FCTA who are supervising this building supposed to know the gravity of this building, how they are supposed to supervise it, but they didn’t supervise it well because of corruption.
“Right now, almost 15 people are trapped inside the building, no response on time, we had to beg and plead before other agencies came,” he lamented.
Another eye witness who does not want his name in print said that the building was an old one as it was built in 1997.
Also, the Head of Administration, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, FCT Command, Felix Ikwuegu, said the building collapse was unfortunate, but added that men of the Service were doing everything humanly possible to ensure that the disaster that would arise from the incident was reduced to the barest minimum.
Rescue operations were ongoing as at the time of filing this report.
The FCT Minister commended emergency officers and first responders for their prompt response.
“Efforts are ongoing to excavate the place and clear to rubbles in order to rescue some of the people suspected to have been covered by the rubbles.
“We are working to get under the debris to get out all those that have been trapped there. And I am very appreciative of the quick response of the emergency management agency and as you can see, they are doing a good job. The ambulances are here what we need now is to support the rescue workers.
“We have placed selected hospitals on high alert and I have directed the hospitals to ensure diligent treatment of any of the victims brought in from the site. My prayer is that those that are trapped would come out safe,” Bello said The Minister prayed that the rescue operators would meet the victims alive.
Asked what he intends to do against the background of the unconfirmed report that the building had been abandoned for 15 years until now when the owner mobilised to site, Bello responded that for now the focus was on rescuing those trapped. He however indicated that machinery would be set in motion to unravel the reason for the building collapse.