A three-storey building located on 9, Daddy Alaja Street, Oke-Arin, Idumota, Lagos Island, collapsed yesterday, burying 48 occupants alive, among which were two children and a nursing mother.
This is coming one week after a similar incident occurred at Ilasamaja area of the state, where two persons lost their lives and 17 others rescued alive.
According to Vanguard, as at 5.30p.m. yesterday, the bodies of a bricklayer, identified simply as Baba Ibeji, and that of a five-year-old girl, Farida Ajitayo, were recovered from the debris dead.
Meanwhile, 14 occupants were rescued alive. Among them were a six-month-old baby and her mother, who Vanguard gathered spent close to five hours under the debris before help came.
The three-storey building, with a penthouse, which caved in at about 7:20a.m., fell on an adjourning building occupied by over six families.
The building, which had warehouses on its ground floor and residential apartments on the other floors, was said to have been marked for demolition by Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA .
While some occupants reportedly moved out, others remained following plans by its landlord to carry out renovation work on it.
Vanguard was informed that renovation work was ongoing when it caved in. Many of the injured victims were artisans contracted for the renovation works.
The ground floor and first floor reportedly sank into the earth, burying undisclosed number of occupants. Among those rescued alive were occupants of the second and third floors.
A resident, who identified himself as Ali, hinted that the bricklayers had commenced work for the day before the building collapsed, saying “I saw them mixing cement and sand on the first floor this morning.
“Baba Ibeji was on the staircase to the second floor mixing the cement when the building caved in on him. He was removed from the debris, dead.”
LASBCA disclosed that the occupants were evacuated and building sealed thrice before its eventual collapse.
In an interview with Vanguard, Acting General Manager of LASBCA, Joseph Oyewale, said: “The building was erected on a swampy area, which was filled with refuse by the residents.
“We sealed it for the third time last Friday, but after our activities at the building, the contractor often returns to site, remove the seal to commence construction. And they do this on weekends or public holidays.
“If you ask him to present his renovation permit, he cannot provide it, indicating that the activities on site were illegal.
“I can inform you that whenever we visit any site and meet anyone engaging in illegal activities, we often arrest them for onward prosecution.”
Corroborating his claim, an occupant of the building, Olayinka Okunola, who escaped unhurt, said that the landlord ordered all occupants to vacate the building six years ago.
He said while some left, others remained, claiming they did not have money to rent another apartment.
Okunola, who owned one of the shops on the ground floor, claimed that his goods worth N3 million were destroyed.
In his words: “The landlord asked us to leave. But while some left, I and some others decided to stay back.
“Since 2011, he had not collected rent from us. That is why we cannot hold him responsible for the act.”
When Vanguard got to the scene, rescue operators comprising Policemen; National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA; Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA; Nigerian Red Cross, Lagos State Fire Service, National Security and Civil Defense Corps and LASBCA were on ground.
However, at 2p.m., all rescue operators except officials of LASBCA had left the scene, saying they had concluded operation, but residents maintained that people were still trapped under the rubble.
For instance, it was gathered that five artisans that were carrying out renovation work were still missing.
Their identities were given simply as Gbenga, Ominiku, Shoshodi, Shodipo and Omolewa. They were said to have been among those who passed the night in the building.
General Manager LASEMA, Mr. Adesina Tiamiyu, who confirmed that two persons died and 14 injured, lamented that the rescue operation experienced a hitch.
He said: “Due to how the buildings were constructed, we could not access the collapsed building site with our equipments. And we were forced to embark on manual rescue operation.
“Manual operation is tasking and time wasting. We have to break through walls and go under the rubbles to bring out those who were trapped.”
Tiamiyu noted that preliminary investigation carried out at the scene of the incident revealed that illegal repairs were ongoing.
He noted that sands and concrete blocks were seen on the upper deck of the building together with scaffolding around it, which suggested that construction was going on in the building already inhabited by people.
He, however, said that proper investigation would be carried out by the relevant government agencies to ascertain the actual circumstances that led to its collapse, advising owners and developers to adhere to building codes and physical planning laws of the state.