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Seven dead as two buildings collapse in Lagos, Kaduna

By The Citizen
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Tragedy struck in Lagos yesterday as a three-storey building collapsed in Ebute Meta, killing seven people and injuring many others.

Also in Kaduna State, another three-storey building collapsed in the Kaduna metropolis with many people reported trapped.

The incident occurred along Hadeja Road by Ibrahim Taiwo Road about 3p.m. yesterday.

Among the dead in the Lagos incident were a couple, identified as Bukky and Lanre; a pregnant woman, a nursing mother, Iya AbdulBarki, and her one- yearold son as well as an 85-yearold Alhaji Ganiu Salami, who has since been buried according to Islamic rights.

A middle-aged man, who had just paid N600,000 rent to the landlord also died in the collapsed building. National Mirror learnt that one of the dead residents was trying to rescue his in-law.

The three-storey building located at 29b, Oloto Street, off Cemetery Road, Ebute Meta, which was said to have been marked as distressed by the Lagos State Government, caved in about 2a.m. Prior to its collapse, it was gathered that the building had given the residents distress signs with cracks all over, which were ignored.

It was learnt that as at 1a.m. when a loud sound followed by severe cracks in the walls woke up occupants of the building, residents were said to have evacuated some of their properties outside and were waiting for dawn before moving out.

But the building eventually collapsed about 2a.m. Many residents were trapped in the building until about 6a.m. when heavy duty equipment from the state government arrived at the scene.

The rescue operation was jointly carried out by the police and officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, the Red Cross, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, and the state Fire Service.

Efforts by youths in the area and sympathisers bolstered the rescue operation as more people were rescued from the debris, including two children; a male and female, aged 2 and 4 years. They were rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment.

The rescue operation was, however, not without a mild drama as policemen manhandled and arrested the NEMA spokesperson, Ibrahim Farinloye, on the order of the Commander of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, Mr. Akeem Odumosu.

The arrest of the NEMA official almost marred the rescue operation, as other officials of the agency protested, abandoned the operation and drove away from the scene.

Farinloye incurred Odumosu's wrath for daring to stop him from sending away residents of the area, who stormed the scene and for telling him that he was stupid to have done that.

Odumosu, who got to the scene about noon, went straight to where evacuation of the trapped victims was taking place and started chasing away non-emergency workers, including journalists.

Farinloye, who was in the thick of the operation, walked up to the police officer, angrily confronted him and told him to stop chasing away the residents. He said they had been part of the operation even before NEMA officials came to the scene.

A visibly angry Odumosu, who did not utter a word when Farinloye confronted him, ordered his men to arrest him, leading to the NEMA spokesman being bundled away from the scene.

Farinloye was later detained at Denton Police Station with an instruction from Odumosu that he should be arraigned in court on Friday and had not been released as at 4p.m. yesterday.

Earlier, Farinloye had told journalists that the building collapsed about 2a.m. taking the residents unawares as some of them were still sleeping.

He said that preliminary information from the victims was that the building started cracking about 1a.m. but the residents just moved out their properties and went back to sleep only for the building to cave in about 2a.m.

He added that due to speculations that many people might still be trapped in the rubble, emergency workers were still combing the perimeter to ensure none was left behind.

Eyewitnesses, however, said that one of the occupants, identified as Dalikis Abdulamid, was rescued along with her mother and her four siblings and were taken to the hospital.

A female resident admitted that they had been noticing cracks in the walls of their rooms, but did not bother so much over this because her father used to patch the cracks with cement as soon as they appeared.

She said: 'We did not know that the building will collapse. By about 2a.m. when the building came down, some of our co-tenants were trapped, while some were dead. It was a rude shock for everyone.'

Another resident of the building, who simply gave his name as Femi, said they were shocked out of their sleep when they heard a loud sound, which turned out to be cracking walls.

He said: 'I was still trying to doze off after the initial evacuation when the walls started quaking. 'I quickly sprang up and jumped down. Some of my co-tenants were not that lucky. Some were killed while many others were injured and were rushed to the hospital.'

Mrs. Fatima Alake, another resident who claimed to have escaped death miraculously, was not totally lucky as she lost her aged father. Her husband also sustained serious injuries but has been rushed to the General Hospital for medical treatment.

She said that although the building collapsed about 2a.m., it took another two hours before rescue workers could move to the scene. Alake told National Mirror that she just moved to the house last Monday after she had paid N120,000 for a room and a parlour to the developer, who she said also lived in the house.

The building, she said, was made up of rooms and parlours, one-bedroom flats, two-bedroom flats and three-bedroom flats, while the ground floor was used as warehouse for storing motorbikes and spare parts. The developer of the building, identified by survivors as Mr. Oladimeji Gbaja, has been on the run since the building caved in.

An eyewitness, Mrs. Bukola Sanni, who lives about 50 metres away from the scene, said she heard the sound of the collapsed structure at about 2a.m. and came out but could not do anything than to make phone calls to neighbours for help.

She said it took two-anda half hours before local rescue workers moved to site. Later workers from the state government and other agencies arrived with a bulldozer for rescue operation.

Also narrating how the incident happened, a man who identified himself simply as Ekpere, who narrowly escaped being trapped in the collapsed building said: 'I came back from office at about 11p.m.but on getting home, my wife was already asleep.

So I had to go to the kitchen myself to prepare what I wanted to eat. 'On getting to the kitchen, I discovered that some rubble from the building had fallen off. But I didn't take it serious. So I went to bed.

'At about 2:05a.m., I woke up and I discovered the entire building was cracking. While trying to alert the landlord, I discovered that the cracks had increased.

That was when quickly alerted other tenants and rescued my family. Immediately we came out, the building caved in.' Mr. Hakeen Adeyemi, a resident who also engaged in the rescue operation also said that majority of the bodies recovered were women.

Adeyemi said: 'A baby and his two siblings were rescued and have been admitted in the general hospital. 'Bukky and her husband died in the collapsed building. If the equipment had come early, the number of casualties would have reduced.

I was involved in the rescue mission. I assisted in recovering three bodies and rescued two persons.

'She (Bukky) was sleeping in the house with her husband, Lanre, and a sibling, Juwon, when the building collapsed. She rented a one-room apartment four years ago.

When she rented her apartment, I was the one who stood for her as guarantor and there wasn't any crack on the building then. She was dealing in local and foreign fabrics.'

Three adjoining properties to the collapsed structure were immediately marked as distressed buildings by the Lagos State Building Control Agency, having showed serious signs of weakness.

The Commissioner for Physical Planning Mr. Toyin Ayinde, said some adjoining buildings in the area had also been marked as distressed. He said that the residents of the marked buildings had been given ultimatum to relocate.

Ayinde also noted that the state government would soon carry out integrity tests on many buildings in the area to ascertain their condition.

He advised home seekers and residents to be wary of the environment, stressing that when a building 'is peeling off, it is a sign of possible collapse of the structure.'

The Kaduna incident happened when the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu, was on a working visit to meet beneficiaries of SURE-P. Our correspondent, who was at the scene saw good Samaritans and a team from the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, on rescue operation.

Three people were immediately rescued and taken to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. However, a woman was said to have her baby trapped in the building with other occupiers as the building served as a residential abode and also had shops. SEMA Executive Secretary, Ishaku Dogo Makama, confirmed that two people were rescued. Kaduna State Governor Ramalan Yero visited the scene of the incident yesterday.