Chioma Igbokwe, Lawrence Enyoghasu and Gilbert Ekezie
Many could not hold back tears, relatives, sympathisers and onlookers alike, when the Lagos State government, yesterday, released the bodies of 20 people including school pupils who died in the Lagos collapsed building on Wednesday. As broad-day reality hit many of them who have been praying and hoping that this might end up being just a nightmare, who have been wishing for a last-minute miracle that would wake up those sleeping little ones who had earlier gone to school to acquire knowledge that will no longer be useful to them, and they realised it was all over, hope and fears gave way to widespread outpouring of emotions as the corpses were brought out and handed over to loved ones.
Mothers and sisters of the departed pupils wailed loudly and refused to be consoled. Relatives who were there to comfort them failed in that duty as they too succumbed to tears. Their husbands shook their heads several times and snapped their fingers in utter grief. Onlookers who strained their necks to see what was going on soon joined. Even hospital staff and government officials who had earlier tried to maintain some element of self composure soon lost out in the battle and joined in the weeping. Others feebly lifted their hands to wave goodbye to the departed but their strength simply failed them. Never has a community been this united in the outpouring of emotions as on this mournful day. A very sad day.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris confirmed that 20 corpses were brought to Lagos state mortuaries from the site while 45 survivors were received. The survivors, he added, are being treated by government health facilities, notably Lagos Island General Hospital, Massey Street Children hospital, Onikan Health Centre., Gbagada General hospital, LASUTH, National Orthopedic hospital, Igbobi and LUTH.
As at yesterday morning, he said that 14 people (10 children and 4 adults) are still receiving medical attention at Lagos Island General Hospital from various levels of injury According to the Medical Director of Lagos Island General hospital, Dr Ismail Ganikale, more survivors will still be discharged from the hospital to their families before the close of work today.
One of those who lost his life in the incident is Bashiru Alagbala. Sources said he had visited his fiancée who stayed in the building at about 9am when he met his untimely death. His younger brother, Mr. Sikiru Alagbala revealed that Bashiru, a blind man and widower, with two children, received a call from his girlfriend to come for breakfast. It was while he had gone to keep the appointment that he fell victim. “I passed the building at about 8am on my way to work. But at about 10.15am I received a call that the building has collapsed. When I got there, I could not see my brother. I kept searching for him until I saw a body that was evacuated from the rubble by Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA) and covered with body bag. I went straight to them to know who that was. They refused and asked me to follow them to the mortuary. But after much pestering, they opened the bag, and behold, it was my elder brother. Thereafter, I followed them to the mortuary and they demanded for death certificate before we could be able to take his body, which we later produced. Having done that, they released my brother’s body and we went to bury him. In fact, it was a serious blow to our family. As I am speaking, his two children are at home crying.”
Late Bashiru was said to be a petty trader and an active member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in E2 Ward, Lagos Island, and worked hard for the success of Sanwo-Olu and other APC members in the state. Some of his neighbours testified of his good character, generosity and hardwork. One of his greatest wish was to give his children good education, as his wife left him.
When Saturday Sun crew visited the scene yesterday, a Christian based non-governmental organization was spotted taking record of the victims of the incident for possible assistance.
A reliable source, Mr. Olamide Daniel informed that the organisation has already secured accommodation for some of the displaced victims within the area for a period of time, while plans were on ground to take care of others. “We are liaising with the Lagos Island Local Government to see what we can do to re settle the victims.”
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the tragedy, the Lagos State Building Control Agency, yesterday commenced the demolition of defective buildings within Lagos Island.
About 80 houses will be demolished in the exercise, according to the General Manager of LASBCA, Mr. Lekan Shodeinde.
Though Shodeinde had said that 20 buildings would be demolished on Friday alone, the agency eventually pulled down only three buildings as at of close of work on the first day of the demolition exercise.
At Evans street, the Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Mrs. Titi Ajirotutu who was amongst the taskforce said that about 80 buildings had been mapped out for demolition within Lagos Island, while many are scattered across the state.
She said the demolition exercise which started yesterday, will go on until all the affected buildings are pulled down. “We have just started on Freeman Street, Smith Street, Evans Streets and others. We will continue tomorrow. We will go on and on till we are done with the already marked buildings.”