By Olasunkanmi Akoni/Monsur Olowoopejo/Ufuoma Tiveruahor
LAGOS—‘’My sister called me that she was under the debris, by the staircase, that was at about 2:30pm. Later, she called again to say that the place was very hot and that she was getting weak. She is still there struggling for breath. But the rescue workers are unable to get to where she is.’’
Aside from Mercy’s sister, several others are still feared trapped in the building.
However, five persons, including an 80-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy, were rescued from the rubbles of the collapsed building at about 1:45pm.
Vanguard gathered that the building, described as ‘civilian Barracks” caved in at about 9 am, after several warning sounds of distress.
It was gathered that some residents, especially occupants on the third floor, escaped through the window, jumping unto an uncompleted building beside it.
When Vanguard visited the scene, residents and bystanders could not ascertain the number of persons still trapped in the building.
The residents confirmed that they received phone calls from residents still trapped beneath the rubbles but no one had been confirmed dead.
At the scene, the combined team include Police, Army, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, federal and state fire service, Lagos State Building Control Agency, LSBCA, and Lagos Safety Commission, were on ground to manage the situation.
Sources said that the octogenarian, who was rescued over four hours after the collapse, was conveyed to the General Hospital, Lagos Island, for medical care by Lagos State Ambulance Service, LASAMBUS.
Eyewitnesses account on how the building caved in
One of the residents, Mr. Saidi Balogun, who witnessed the incident said: “I left my room after receiving a call from my mechanic shop. Standing outside the building, less than five meters away, the building caved in.’’
Another resident, identified as Fatimah Usman, who lived and owned a shop in the building, said: “I ran and called my husband who was inside when the building collapsed. I didn’t know how he escaped. I just saw him few minutes after the building had collapsed.’’
Mrs. Enitan Ayinla, while narrating her own side of the story, said: “I was forced to scale through the window into a nearby uncompleted building.
“Three pupils were standing this morning and talking to themselves, so, I called one of them and asked what they were talking about and she said our building was making some sound and has cracked.
“I had just a wrapper on my body and told my husband what the children said. He told me to dress up and go downstairs to check the area that was cracked. We were still at the staircase when we heard a loud bang and the building collapsed. It was through the uncompleted building beside us that my husband and I escaped.
“People have been calling us that they were in the building and they said the heat was much. We were seven who escaped from the building.”
According to LASEMA’s boss, Micheal Akindele, the four persons earlier rescued sustained minor injuries and were taken to Lagos Island General Hospital.
He said they had not been able to ascertain the number of occupants in the building, adding that no one could confirm whether or not people were still in the rubble.
Assistant Director, Federal Fire Service, Mr. Okon Macaulay, said the distressed structure was responsible for the collapse, adding “initially we rescued about four people that were slightly injured from the building.”
Residents accuse govt officials
Some residents also accused government agencies in-charge of conducting integrity tests of collecting bribes from landlords.
They also insisted that they had complained to the owners, the Onibudo family, over the state of the building but they failed to embark on repairs.
Responding, General Manager, LSBCA, Shola Aderibigbe, said the building was marked for integrity test and 14 days ultimatum was served on the building.