Two teenage girls wept uncontrollably on Wednesday after their grandmother, believed to be in her 70s, was trapped in a three-storey building that collapsed on Swamp Street, Lagos Island.
The septuagenarian, who was later rescued around 2pm ─ five hours after the tragedy struck ─ placed on oxygen, and rushed to the Lagos Island General Hospital.
Apart from the woman, it was learnt that five others sustained injuries in the incident which happened around 9am ─ shortly after children living in the building left for their respective schools.
It was learnt that the building, before it collapsed, had been a threat since 2008 with several cracks on its wall.
ADELOVE gathered that four victims were rushed to the Sura Primary Health Centre, while a woman, identified only as Ronke, was admitted at a private hospital in the area.
A doctor at the health centre, who did not want his name in print, said, “Of the four victims that were rushed here, three persons sustained minor injuries and have been treated and discharged. The fourth person, a man, has been referred to the Lagos Island General Hospital for proper treatment.”
Some residents reportedly escaped unhurt through the back of the house, which was not affected.
However, emergency workers were still clearing the rubble to salvage some property and ascertain if there were more casualties as of 4pm when our correspondent left the scene.
Some residents, who spoke with our correspondent, said they lost cash and other valuables worth millions to the disaster, adding that the estate developer in charge of the building had been advised on the need for a complete renovation of the house on several occasions.
One of them, Alhaji Sharafadeen Agunbiade, recounted the moment that the building came down.
He said, “I came back to pick something that I forgot at home. I was about to enter when the building collapsed. My wife, Ronke, who was on the second floor, was buried in the rubble. But she was rescued and taken to the Ajike Sanda Memorial Medical Centre. She injured her hand and head, but she is stable now.
“Thank God our children have gone to school. All our belongings have been trapped. But I am grateful to God that I did not lose any of my family.
“We have told the developer several times to renovate the building. He said he wanted to renovate the pillar of the house.”
A nurse at the medical centre denied our correspondent access to the woman, saying, “She (Ronke) is resting now.”
Another resident, Saidi Balogun, who deals in clothes and wrist watches, said the goods he just bought and some money were trapped in the rubble.
He said, “My goods are there worth millions of naira because I just bought them. The building had been like that for years. I moved in four years ago. It was my mechanic who called me around 9pm to come and pick my car. The moment I stepped out, the building came down. My wife had gone to the market and our children had gone to school.”
A resident, who identified herself only as Bola, said, “I am living on the second floor. It was 10 minutes after my child left home that the incident happened.”
A university graduate, Muibat Alatise, said she was left with nothing and appealed to the government for help.
“My possessions are there, including my certificates. We are appealing to the government to come to our aid. The losses are much,” she said.
A resident, Tope Jejelola, who lived on the third floor, lamented that the house ought to have been marked for demolition by the government.
“I have been living here for five years now. There are eight mini-flats on the third floor. The house had been distressed, but not marked. I go to work in the morning and come back in the evening. We thank God the incident did not happen in the night.”
An eyewitness, who spoke to ADELOVE on condition of anonymity, said one of the landlords of the house, identified only as Osile, fled the scene immediately the incident happened.
The Secretary of the Lagos Island Residents, Mr. Lukman Omotosho, urged the government to take decisive actions on distressed buildings in the community.
He said, “About five people were rescued on time. We have advised the landlords to renovate the building. Instead, they said they had met up with the government standard. I think with this, government will take appropriate steps.”
The Lagos State Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-governmental Relations, Seye Oladejo, said the government had already sealed some buildings in the area.
He said, “We have received information as regards other distressed buildings around here. Some of the buildings have been sealed up. We have been doing evacuation and we are going to pull them down.
“We just want to advise citizens not to endanger their lives. Residents of such buildings are not unaware that they are distressed. They should bring it to the attention of the government and I can assure that we will act promptly.”
The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Michael Akindele, said rescue agencies responded swiftly to the incident.
He said, “We recovered the distress call at about 9am and we activated all the responders to ensure that we have a smooth rescue operation. So far, we have no record of loss of life. We had five people that sustained injuries. Other agencies will investigate the immediate and remote causes of the collapse.”
The General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Shola Aderibigbe, said the building was marked for integrity test while a 14-day ultimatum was served on the occupants.
“For this building, we served them a 14-day ultimatum, which expired before today. We asked them to conduct structural stability test and they agreed.
“We were still waiting for them to conduct the test before the building collapsed.
“The test would have helped us to ascertain if the building was distressed or not.
“Some buildings can be defective but when the test is conducted, we will be able to know if the building should be renovated or demolished.”