By Evelyn Usman, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Kingsley Adegboye & Monsur Olowoopejo
LAGOS— CRIES of agony, desperation and helplessness, yesterday, echoed from the debris of the four-storey building that collapsed at 4, Mogaji Lane in Ebute Ero area of Idumota, Lagos Island as trapped victims tried to reach out to their relations on the other side of the collapsed building.
Their chances of survival, however, remained bleak as rescue teams found it difficult to assess the affected building with earth moving equipment.
Frantic phone calls were made by those trapped in the rubbles. One of the trapped victims, a male, simply identified as Semiu, called one of his relations on phone, begging passionately for quick response. Semiu cried that he was running out of breath.
However, when his number was dialled again, there was no response. This caused an uproar, with the youths blaming government for being insensitive to their plight.
A private truck owner who said he was contacted by the concerned youths arrived the scene but declined releasing his truck on the ground that it would not be able to gain access to the scene, given the narrow nature of the road.
Vanguard observed during a visit to the site, yesterday, that manual labour was being deployed by the rescue teams as earth moving equipment could not access the site due to lack of space. This slowed down the pace of work. Rescuers were seen using shovels to evacuate debris.
Rescue workers were still on the third floor which meant that the second and the ground floor levels where residents of the building are believed to have been trapped were yet to be touched.
An eyewitness who spoke to Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said a new tenant moved into the building a few hours before it collapsed, adding that supernatural forces could have caused the collapse of the building.
10 dead bodies recovered—LASG
Meanwhile following conflicting reports over the number of casualties in the incident, Lagos State government, yesterday, confirmed that only 10 dead bodies were recovered, while 37 survivors were rescued from the debris.
The government has also marked several undisclosed defective buildings for demolition in the area, even as it announced plans to embark on demolition of defective buildings and prosecute errant developers who carry out shoddy constructions.
General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Mr Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, told Vanguard that contrary to high figures in the media on the casualties, the total number of those who died as at yesterday morning were 10 persons, while 37 sustained various degrees of injuries, with 32 already discharged after receiving medical attention.
Osanyintolu, who was still at the scene of the incident at press time, said rescue operation had been concluded, while the site was currently being levelled, signifying that there were no more victims trapped in the debris.
Also reacting to the development, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Ibirogba Aderemi; Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, and Town Planner, Mr. Toyin Ayinde, respectively after inspection of the site, said the building came down due to poor construction mix of sand and cement.
Ayinde said some of the distressed buildings were unapproved and were built several years ago when order was not in place.
He said the era of indiscriminate building was over, as government would no longer tolerate unlawful construction, adding that steps had been taken to ensure the safety of lives and properties of the citizens of Lagos State.
Part of the steps to be implemented, according to the commissioner, is the enforcement of the 2010 Physical Planning, Urban Development and Building Control Law of Lagos State which provided the creation of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA).
He said the agency would ensure the enforcement of building control regulations and that all buildings above one story must come with insurance policy certificate before approval was given.
He warned residents of the state not to occupy any derelict building, saying distressed buildings constituted threat to lives.
The commissioner revealed that the plan of the collapsed building could be revoked, and noted that the state government would not hesitate to revoke any building plan earlier approved, if developer deviated from stipulated guidelines after approval had been granted.
The commissioner said the government had discovered that most developers, upon obtaining building plan approval from government, go ahead to change designs and specifications of buildings in order to reap more profit.
He said further that henceforth visibly distressed building in Lagos State would be thoroughly examined and subjected to a test, warning that developers of buildings that failed the test were liable to prosecution.
He stated that the delay in rescuing those still trapped in the building was a result of inaccessibility of LASEMA, Red Cross, NEMA, LASAMBUS and other relevant agencies to move heavy machines into the site.