By Bose Adebayo
IF only the Head of Labour had heededÂ the alarm raised by some workers when they spotted a crack on a section of the building at the weekend and drew his attention to it, the tragedyÂ would have been averted.
But rather than treat this as anÂ emergency and carrying outÂ Â a major rehabilitation of the structure, he settled for palliative measures.Â The building caved in some hours later and sent some of the workers to their early graves, leaving others with varying degrees of injury.
The blocks of two-storey buildings are situated at Isipa, Kodowo area of the popular Kairo Market in Oshodi. Many observers were of the view that the collapse of the buildings was one that was waiting to happen because of noticeable structural defects. For instance,Â some parts of the buildings have cracked even thoughÂ construction work was ongoing.
This area was said to have been a sawmill site some years back before it was converted to a shopping mall by Provida Investment and Builder, a construction company, on behalf of the Lagos State Government.
But it became the scene of anotherÂ Â tragedy on Monday when several workers were trapped after some of the buildings collapsed. Some of them were rescued by various rescue teams and sympathisers though critically injured and taken to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, while it was too late for others to be rescued.
Hours after the incident happened, relations and sympathisers were seen making frantic calls toÂ some of the victims who were then still trapped in the buildings while some of the victims also responded by crying out for help.
â€œHe spoke with me some minutes ago telling me to come and rescue him at the spot we normally relax after work but the last statement he made was that the heat was too much for him and his phone went off. I also tried to call him back but his number was not responding,â€ said one of the sympathisers who simply gave his name as Ade.
Although there was a heavy presence of rescue officials such as fire fighters,Â Police men, Red Cross Society workers and a host of others, but some sympathisers expressed dissatisfaction at their rescue efforts. â€œI came to see my mother who is a trader in this place but was shocked at the amount of smoke coming out from the collapsed building. I rushed to the scene immediately but was surprised that the supposed rescue workers were busy discussing among themselves.
All of us were hearing the shouts of the victims and the ringing of their handsets. I saw a little space which I followed until I found myself underneath the collapsed building and was able to rescue one of the victims. By the time I was going the second time, another sympathiser by name Sherif joined me and we were able to rescue the second person whose name was Ayaba.
We could not rescue the third person because there was a heavy iron at the place; meanwhile none of the safety officials came to assist us. The two persons we brought out were severely injured. By this time both of us wereÂ tired. That was when some safety officials started to evacuate the rubbles in order to rescue the rest of them,â€ said Adegbite Adekunle.
One of the workers told Vanguard Metro under condition of anonymity that the disaster could have been averted if the contractor had used quality materials at the site. â€œWe normally dispose some of the materials at cheaper rate while we manage the remaining ones. That is why the buildings are not looking strong. As you can see, some of these buildings have already cracked but our Oga told us that we should go on managing. I sensed danger when I reported for work in the morning and told one of my colleagues to be careful inÂ moving close to the building but he ignored my advice and died on the spot,â€ she said.
In a chat with Vanguard Metro, Assistant Zonal Coordinator for National Emergency Management Authority, NEMA, Mrs. Ojo Bolanle put the number of those rescued at six, saying it was difficult to ascertain the numbers of those who were still trapped in the building. â€œNobody could really ascertain the number of the victims but we are trying our best to save the situation,â€ she said.
A sympathiser who gave her name as Mama Morenike said most of the safety equipment that were brought to the scene were sub-standard which did not help the situation as far as rescue work was concerned.Â Apart from this, he said the construction company did not bother to carry out an impact assessment on the site before it stated building. â€œWhat they do is to dish outÂ instructions; they are scared to go inside and rescue the victims.
The place was already filled with sawdust mixed with sand, they should not have erected storey buildings on it, I am sure the contractor did not carry out any test before he started work,â€Â she said.