Tessy Igomu, with agency report
The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and residents of Massey Street, off Ita-Faaji Market, on Lagos Island, disagreed sharply, yesterday, over halting the search-and-rescue operation after a three-storey building, Number 40, collapsed on Wednesday.
Corroborating LASEMA, Lagos State Government said rescue operations have been concluded.
The state government disclosed this via its Twitter handle, yesterday, after emergency officials said they had reached ‘ground zero’ on the site, meaning that all the rubble had been excavated and there was no evidence that anyone was still trapped.
The Head of Service, Mr. Hakeem-Muri Okunola, said this after he visited the scene of the incident in the early hours of yesterday, for an on-the-spot assessment.
In the aftermath of the building collapse on Wednesday, several pupils of Ohen Nursery and Primary School, as well as residents, were trapped in the rubble.
While over 50 were rescued between Wednesday and the early hours of yesterday, over 12 reportedly died in the building collapse that day.
Yesterday, LASEMA Managing Director, Adeshina Tiamiyu, said there were no casualty left under the debris of the collapsed building and the search-and-rescue operation would end. in the Ita-Faaji area of Lagos Island.
Tiamiyu spoke with newsmen at the site of the incident, yesterday morning.
“We stopped work at 3:00am, after recovering the lifeless body of a male and we are sure there is no casualty left under the debris,” he said.
He, however, said he could not give the casualty figure but that the state’s Ministry of Health would release the accurate figure later in the day.
But, some residents faulted LASEMA’s claims and insisted that there were still casualties in the debris.
Mrs Aishat Onilenla said three of her sister’s three children were still trapped in the collapsed building.
‘My friend has seven children also trapped in the rubble. I don’t know how she is going to survive it. It is too big for her to bear,” she said.
Despite calling off rescue operations, it remains unclear the actual number of casualties and fatalities recovered from the collapse site.
Also, the actual number of students in the school and tenants were yet to be ascertained.
At the time of filing in this report, families of victims still milled around the scene, with hopes of getting the remains of their loved ones, if the rescue efforts remain sustained.
As at 8.30pm on Wednesday, it was gathered that some of the parents whose children died in the hospital had gone to pick up the corpses for burial.
Regardless, Tiamiyu dispelled speculations that more victims could still be trapped under the rubble of the three-store building, noting that efforts were made by all the emergency responders on ground to ensure all the grounds were covered.
In response to calls for blood donation on social media, on Wednesday, hundreds of Lagos state residents turned up at the Lagos Island General Hospital, yesterday.
Head of the Social Work Department, Oluwakemi Olumuyide, said the turnout was impressive and added that the gesture would go a long way to meet the blood demand of some of the victims.
Same Wednesday, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, vowed to demolish all illegal school buildings in the Ita Faaji area.
He said: “We were earlier informed that it was a school.
“The building is not technically a school, it is a residential building that was actually accommodating an illegal school so to speak on the second floor.
“As we have said, we have been carrying out a lot of integrity tests on the buildings in this neighborhood and as you can see, some of them have been marked for demolition but we get resistance from landlords but we must continue to save lives and we would intensify our efforts to see that those have failed our integrity test, we would ensure that they are quickly evacuated and we bring the structures down,” he said.
The governor said this in response to concerns raised by some residents; on the increase in illegal schools when he visited the scene.
On his part, National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said the dead children did not deserve to die the way they did.
He described the incident as tragic.
Tinubu, in a condolence message made available by his Media Adviser, Mr Tunde Rahman, commiserated with the families of the victims, and prayed that God would comfort them and grant repose of the souls of the young ones.
Tinubu said: “The building collapse on Wednesday was a tragic occurrence.
“I commiserate with the families of those children who lost their precious lives.
“They do not deserve to die the way they did. May God comfort their families and grant repose of the souls of those young ones.
“If after the collapsed building had been found to be weak and marked for demolition and everybody had done what was required of them, perhaps this terrible incident would have been averted.
“On its part, the government must fast-track demolition arrangements once a building is discovered to be weak and deserving of being pulled down to save lives,” he said.
Also, Lagos state governor-elect, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, visited the survivors, in company with his deputy governor-elect, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.
The governor-elect first visited the site of the collapsed building, to assess the rescue operations and sympathised with residents who lost loved ones.
Sanwo-Olu, who is from Lagos Island, arrived Ita-Faaji at 1:05pm, and lamented the loss of lives which, he said, could have been prevented if the owner of the collapsed buildings had not flouted the state’s building codes.
He personally engaged with some residents, to get first-hand information on how the structure came down. Some told him developers in the area were fond of using sub-standard building materials on properties they manage, and urged him to audit all buildings in area when he assumes office.