LAGOS — A three-storey building at 29, Oloto Street, Ebutte Metta, Yaba Local Council Development Area, LCDA, Lagos, yesterday collapsed killing no fewer than seven persons with 14 others injured.
A one-year-old baby, a couple, identified as Bukky and Lanre, and a pregnant woman, a nursing mother, Iya AbdulBarki and her son were all pulled out of the debris dead.
Also, an 80-year-old Alhaji Ganiu Salami lost his life and has since been buried according to Islamic rites, while his daughter-in-law sustained injury.
Vanguard gathered that the 14 persons who sustained injuries when the building caved in at about 2:00 am, have all been admitted at the General Hospital, Lagos Island.
It was also learnt that the owner of the building identified as Alhaji Dimeji, who also owns two other distressed buildings is on the run.
Mr. Ufuoma Ekpere, a resident who alerted other residents about the imminent collapse said: “I came back from work at about 11:00 pm. But on getting home, my wife was 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 rubbles from the building had fallen off. But I didn’t take it serious. So I went to bed.
“At about 2:05 am, I woke up and discovered the entire building was cracking. While trying to alert the landlord, I discovered that the crack was getting wider. Then, I alerted other tenants and rescued my family. Immediately we came out, the building caved in.”
Community rescue team
Mr. Hakeen Adeyemi, a resident who also helped in the rescue operation, said: “A large per cent of the recovered bodies were women.
“The baby was recovered in the company of his two siblings who, however, survived and have been admitted in the general hospital. Those rescued were rushed to the hospital while some died before help could come their way.”
Another resident involved in the rescue operation, Mr. Sikiru Azeez, said: “If the equipment had come early, the number of casualities would have reduced. I know this because I was involved in the rescue operation since 2:10 am. I had to use my rechargeable lantern to search for the victims. And I assisted in recovering three bodies and rescued two persons.”
Families of the deceased
Sulaimon Shiaba, a brother to Bukky, who died in the collapse, said his sister was in her early 30s and traded in local and foreign fabrics.
“Bukky was sleeping in the house with her husband, Lanre and Juwon, my brother. She rented the apartment four years ago. And when she rented the place, I was her guarantor and there wasn’t any crack on the building but all we could remove from the building were her cloths and jewellery.”
I thought rapture had taken place
Another occupant who simply gave his name as Oluwaremilekun said: “I had just finished watching a movie and was trying to doze off when I heard some cracks followed by a loud noise. At that point, I thought rapture had taken place and I started praying for mercy.
“Before I knew it, I discovered that the floor was sinking and thought I was going to hell. I started shouting ‘have mercy Lord!’ Before I knew it, people started crying and shouting. I can’t tell how I managed to come out before I realised it was the building that collapsed. I am grateful to God for sparing my life because I am not better that those that died.”
A 28-year-old man identified as Olayinka Mogaji who resided in the ill-fated building said he was on their third floor apartment with his mother, his sister and a friend when they heard a loud noise, but before they could ascertain what was happening, the building came crumbling down on them.
“The walls fell on my mother before she could run out. It took the intervention of neighbours to save her. I thank God everyone in our apartment survived. Three of our neighbours on the second floor were not that lucky, as they all died.”
Confirming the incident, the information officer of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye said: “We received the alert about the collapsed building at about 2:35 am and we arrived at the scene 10 minutes later. Immediately we arrived, seven bodies were recovered.
“Among the seven bodies were one-year-old child, three women and five men were rescued from the debris.
“Affected were those who lived on the first and ground floors. It would have reduced if it wasn’t at night. But despite that we responded swiftly. Uptil 5:00 am, none of the agency had tuned up. If there are more people trapped in the building, we will know.”
NEMA spokesman arrested
A mild drama unfolded at the scene of the collapsed building after spokesperson for NEMA, Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, was manhandled and arrested by policemen attached to the Rapid Response Squad, RRS.
His arrest, as gathered, was on the order of a senior officer of RRS, following Farinloye’s attempt to prevent the policemen from chasing away some residents who were involved in rescue operation before the arrival of rescue agents.
Men of the RRS arrived the scene at noon while NEMA and other rescue operators were still rescuing trapped victims from the debris. The policemen went into action by first sending away residents who were helping out. Journalists at the scene were also sent out.
At that point, Farinloye was said to have stopped the policemen from sending the youths away, explaining that they had been helping out in the rescue operation even before their arrival.
An unconfirmed report, however, quoted Farinloye as saying the senior RRS officer who gave the directive for the residents to leave the scene was stupid. Apparently angry at the utterance, the officer reportedly ordered Farinloye’s arrest.
Attempt to prevail on the officer failed as Farinloye was bundled out of the scene.
His arrest temporarily marred the rescue operation, as NEMA officials protested the arrest of their boss and thereafter, abandoned the scene.
Farinloye, as gathered, was taken to Denton police station where efforts to effect his release at about 4pm failed, as report had it that the Commander of the RRS, Mr Akeem Odumosu, insisted that Farinloye would be charged to court today.
Not even entreaties by the chairman of Lagos Mainland Local Government, Oladele Olakanye to Odumosu could change his mind on Farinloye’s release.
However, Vanguard learnt that Farinloye was realsed at about 5.50 pm.