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Lagos collapsed building: Tears as poor accessibility seals trapped victims’ fate

*Search for survivors with bare hands continues
* Mixed grill of tales trails disaster

By Bilesanmi Olalekan

Tension was still thick in the air. And the crowd massive you had to push through to get to the rubbles. It was Friday, three days after a building collapsed in Idumota, Lagos. Virtually everybody around, in tears, had one thing or the other to be worried about.

It is either the loss of property or loved ones or both. About 40 people were searching the rubbles, obviously for survivors. Many stood by, among them street urchins,obviously looking for how to take advantage of the situation. As a matter of fact, one of them was arrested by the crowd while tampering with one of the victims recovered items. And, trust Lagosians, some people were already making gains from the disaster  by selling in photographs, the collapsed building.

Members of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency,LASEMA, were on hand although not impactful enough as they dug through the rubbles by hands whereas  some earth moving equipment were stationed around the vicinity. The equipment  could not gain entrance because  the houses in the area were closely knitted. As at the time of filing this report, over 44 bodies had been recovered even as some of the volunteers told Sunday Vanguard that there  was the  likelihood of recovering  more bodies before the end of the day (Friday).

Penultimate Tuesday, house number 3, Magaji Close, a four-storey building in Idumota in the Lagos Island Local Government Area had collapsed  after  a  downpour. The building, according to neighbours, was  less than 10 years old as it was built early 2001. The neighbours, however, were quick to add that, from foundation to the roof of the building, the materials used were substandard. The developer  was identified as one Chief Eletu Taofik.

Perhaps the most touching  story of the victims was  that  of a 16-year old boy, Segun, who lost both parents in the mishap. Said tearful Segun, “When I returned from school that day, I went to my mother’s  shop in this area, we both returned home in the evening shortly after the rains. It was not long after that that my dad returned. The food was ready to be served when daddy said I should go and buy him recharge card.

That  is  what I went to buy when the house came down. My dad was a  business man while my mum sold provisions. He was still telling me last month that when I finished my secondary education, he would want me to go to a private university preferably Covenant University. I planned to become a lawyer because of the way they dress and argue cases. Now, how am I going to realise my ambition? Where do I go from here?

‘’Since Wednesday, I have been coming until when their bodies were brought out yesterday[Thursday], that was when it dawned on me that I have actually lost my parents. I have been staying with neighbours since Tuesday. I don’t really know my parents relatives because they hardly come here and we hardly go to see them and even when they did, I never went with them. I was only here today to see if I could recover his phone or that of my mum so that I can trace their relatives with numbers on the phones but, as it is now,the phones are gone with them”.

For Stephen Egede, a commercial bus driver, he  would have gone with the building,naked.” I was in the bathroom when I heard some kind of cracking sounds on the wall and it was as if the building was collapsing. I had to run out of the bathroom and out of the building with my wife and less than one month old baby. You know if I had gone with the building, I probably would have died naked. That would have been too bad for me ooo. I moved here less than 2 years ago. I lost a lot of property, but I thank God I didn’t lose my family. I give God the glory”, he said.

Taofik and his new wife were not  lucky as  the Egede family. They died in the building. They just got married and  moved into the building that fateful Tuesday. Olabimpe Adejumo,32,trader, was one of the  survivors. She was barely  home when the house caved in. She was pulled out of the rubbles.” I have never seen a thing like that in my life. It looked like film  because, when it was about to happen, nobody in the room including my younger brother believed  it could come down. As a matter of fact, I had said jokingly to Rotimi that it is like the house was moving and he said it was only in movies that such could  occur.

It was barely few minutes later that we all went down. I came out first, Rotimi, was pulled out later. I was on the third floor of the house. So many others have been pulled out alive but there are more dead bodies underneath because the number of people living there before it came down were more than 60. I just  pray that more people would be brought out alive because it is already three days after the collapse. I will never live in any house that is more than two-storey again in my life. If it is not bungalow or a storey building, I will never take it. This is a lesson for me”, she said.

Mathew Fasheun, a neighbour who lives on number 7, Magaji Close, said the signs of imminent collapse were there on the building but the tenants just chose to  ignore it, believing that nothing would happen. According to him,” a building that is less than 10 years was cracking virtually on all parts of it such that if you punched the wall with your fist, that part would give way. They saw and lived with it. Some of us knew when the builder started the building and we saw the kind of materials that were used.

I am not surprised that this happened. I am only shocked at the number of casualties”.

Meanwhile, Lagos State government said at the weekend that it would investigate the remote and immediate causes of the tragedy in order to avert future occurrence even as the  site  has been taken over by  government. Mr Toyin Ayinde, Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, said the building was one of those listed as decrepit and the owner  advised to evacuate the building because it was identified as unsuitable for habitation. “The standard rule now is that the
owner of any collapsed structure forfeits such property to  government”, Ayinde added.


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