By Luka Binniyat
A gigantic billboard bearing a smiling woman smartly dressed in a gown, cuddling her son who was also grinning from ear-to-ear stood firmly on top of the ruins of the three high rise apartment and store which had just collapsed and trapped unknown number of people that Thursday afternoon. The advertisement was an annoying contradiction to the desperate reality beneath it – a grim day light tragic drama that had attracted thousands of persons, including the Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero to No. 012 Hadieja Street, by the Kaduna Central Market last week.
The building, which lower front row served as shops for tyre vendors, is believed to be over 50 years old, and was overburdened by an extra-floor which burden it was not designed to carry. Even the estimated one-tonne billboard with the happy mother and son was fingered as also contributing to the weight.
According to accounts, the building started creaking around 1:30 pm. Some of the residents, who heard the noise ran out and escaped unhurt. But, at that time, there were not many people at home. Some had left for their places of work and the kids were just about returning from school.
“It came down with a loud sound like thunder,” said Aliyu Magaji, who escaped by the whiskers from one of the tyre shops beneath.
Soon, a mammoth crowd gathered and rescue effort started. But the Army and Police later came and chased them away, saying some of them were there to loot, and not render assistance.
Sadly, it took another three hours before rescue came. With the aid of volunteers, a giant crane removed boulders and shop items to clear way for trapped persons. The last person was taken out by 12am.
To the joy of everyone, a 40-day-old baby was brought out unscathed and was said to be in deep sleep at the time it was found. According to Kaduna State Police Spokesman, 10 persons, some with various forms of injuries, were rescued.
But the story was that of absolute tragedy for Mrs Medinat Abdullraman, 45, a trader and mother of six children whose husband has been away for four years in some foreign land and has remained incommunicado. The structure killed three of Medinat’s children: Sulieman, 14, Mariam 11 and Abukadir 9, all crushed to death on the second floor.
Her twins, Taye and Kehinde 6, were also injured, with Kehinde having multiple fracture on both legs and a deep gash on the head. Taye had an injured arm, but seem to be doing well when Vanguard Metro, VM, visited them at the 44 Army Referral Hospital, Kaduna. Idowu, 3, was also wounded, but was treated and discharged Tuesday.
“This is the worst imaginable calamity to befall anyone,” Mrs Anifat Adegbu, a sibling of Medinat told VM in an interview at the hospital where she was taking turn to look after the three children. “My sister had gone out to look for food to prepare for the Ramadan fast that afternoon. Her mother in-law who stays with them was at her stall in the market. The children had just returned from school, and were about to undress when the house suddenly came down. The three children were killed in their school uniforms,” she mourned.
“My sister came back to be confronted by the horror. And you can imagine it. And from 2pm till 12 midnight, we had to stand to a frightening uncertainty. And when finally these children were brought out, with the three children dead, my sister could not bear it. No one could ever prepare for such. She had to be taken to the psychiatrist hospital in Barnawa,” she said.
“But she is out now. You can see her taking care of the children,” she said.
When VM wanted to speak to Medinat, she declined any comment, and refused to be photographed. She was still too distraught to care for such attentions.
“Apart from losing her children and with these ones in the Hospital, she has no any possession in her life now. All she has is her pair of clothes and the shoe she wore that day. No money, no husband, no help from government. We can only tax ourselves to meet some of the bills and they are mounting everyday,” said Anifat who teaches in a private school.
“I hear that when such things happen, government usually helps the victims. Our Governor and many government people were there, but no one has come to even see how we are doing here. Please tell me, how can someone not become abnormal?” she queried rather rhetorically.
“It is only one good man called Babangida who has been coming to our help. He is not someone we know before this incident. He told me that he was travelling to somewhere, so he left N15,000 for us, and that money has finished. We are calling on government and all those who have human feelings to come to our aide,” she pleaded.
When VM spoke to the PRO of Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency, Alhaji Abubakar Zakari, he had this to say: “We have not forgotten them at all. I am in touch with development there and I can tell you that one of the children has been discharged today. We are making our own effort at helping them and we shall soon do more.”
The high-rise building, owned by the late Pa Shitu Titilola, has been completely brought down and cleared. The Kaduna State government last Monday, set up a task force to look into the integrity of such structures in Kaduna and empowered it to bring them down.