The death toll from the collapsed five-storey building in Ikate, Lekki, Lagos, has risen to 35 with being rescued.
One of the survivors taken from the rubble died at the Lagos Island General Hospital; 18 bodies were pulled out before rescuers left the site on Tuesday.
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Southwest spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye, in a message at about 7.30pm, said: “Operations concluded at 7.20pm with 34 dead and 13 rescued after reaching ground zero.
“Investigation on the cause of the collapse has started by various federal and state agencies.”
Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) boss Michael Akindele said 95 per cent of the victims were foreigners.
He said: “As we speak now, the time is 7:20pm. Search and rescue exercise on the collapsed five-storey building of 12 blocks of flats is hereby concluded and the physical record we have is 13 lives rescued and 34 bodies.
“We had full complement of all responders on board to ensure smooth response and recovery. It is a sad story; but notwithstanding, our job as responders is to ensure that we mitigate such that all necessary actions are taken.
“The greatest challenge we had was on Tuesday and it was because the families of the deceased and those rescued, 95 per cent of them are non-Nigerians.
“We have people from the North and East, but majority of those we saw in this complex were not Nigerians. Some are Togolese and others Beninoise. The state government will address the public on the situation of the foreign victims.
“Today (Wednesday), we had a very smooth operation. I must commend the police, RRS, Civil Defence, Red Cross, NEMA, LASAMBUS and all others for a diligent job.”
NEMA Southwest coordinator Yakubu Sulaimon said rescuers were initially denied access on Tuesday morning but security operatives brought the situation under control.
“We do not have a list of occupants in the building. The state government will take appropriate action on the other buildings marked,” he said.
Last night, there were fears that some people are still trapped under the rubble.
The police also yesterday, arrested the contractor handling the project.
Lagos police spokesperson Superintendent of Police (SP) Dolapo Badmos gave the contractor’s name as Odofin Taiwo. He is being detained. The Lagos State Government summoned the directors of Lekki Gardens, the developer of the site, to show up at the State Police Headquarters within 24 hours or be arrested.
LASEMA officials said the body of one of the dead, Aba Ali, was released to his relatives for burial after proper documentation.
Ali’s body was handed over to Gaji Mohammed, who said the family was proceeding to Markaz Cemetery to bury him, in line with Islamic rites.
The stench from the retrieved bodies filled the air, an indication that they were already decomposing.
Residents and relatives of victims denied the developer Lekki Gardens’ claim that construction had been suspended since January.
An official of Lekki Gardens, Vincent Paul, said work was ongoing at the site last week.
He said: “We have never stopped work on the site. I have worked with the Lekki Garden for four years. I know how they complete their work. I am still looking for my friend Sunday John, 29.
“I saw him last on Monday. He told me he had work to do here. But I told him I had other things to attend to. I have called his mobile line but it hasn’t been reachable. I have checked all the bodies and I didn’t see his. He is married with a child but his family is based in Benue State.”
Secretary, Hausa Community in Eti-Osa Local Government Area, Auwalu Hassan, said 25 northerners were missing from the site, adding that only six bodies were retrieved.
He identified some of the victims as Johson, Yohana, Maria with four children, Yakub, John, Elias and Yohana), Isiak, saidu, Gwoni, Buhari, Abba and Mustapha.
An artisan, who survived the disaster, recounted his experience, saying:
“When I heard that the site engineer was not coming to pay our N10, 000 weekly wages and N500 daily feeding allowance, I left the site angrily because the engineer had defaulted for two weeks. Although he promised to pay on Tuesday but contacting him on phone was futile.
“I called my elder brother, Alli Abbah, to know if he (engineer) had fulfilled his promise. But the response from my brother was that the building had caved in. He said that he was trapped under the rubble and that he had sustained severe injury on his right thigh. I lost my friend to the collapse. It is a painful incident.”
At the Lagos Island General Hospital where some of the rescued survivors were rushed to, it was gathered that one of them died shortly after arrival at the hospital.
It was learnt that the victim died after his friends gave him water following his cimplaint that he was thirsty.
Sources at the hospital said 13 persons were brought in for treatment, adding that 12 of them were at the emergency wards, while one passed on.
Two of the victims were wheeled to the X-ray section.
Confirming the death toll, LASEMA General Manager Michael Akindele and the Coordinator of NEMA (Southwest), Yakubu Sulaimon, said:
“Our objective here is to rescue more persons than recovery of bodies; 18 persons were rescued a few hours after the building caved in on Tuesday.
“We have about three excavators working to rescue whoever is left under the rubble. We are working to ensure that the bodies are not mutilated during the rescue operation. The rescue operation has now ended.
“For Muslims who were agitating for the release of their relatives’ bodies, we are working on proper documentation on how to release the bodies to them. They will need to present police report, the Lagos State Government official report and a means of identification.”
Akindele added that the state government might pull down a nearby five-storey building still under construction to avoid a similar situation.
The building being constructed also by Lekki Gardens which has been sealed, has cracks all over it.
The Lagos State Safety Commission and the State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) have sealed over 20 buildings in the community
The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), led by its director of Inspectorate and Complaint, Bede Obayi, inspected the collapsed building and others under construction in the area.
Obayi directed that materials used for the collapsed building, including iron rods, blocks, sand, granites and sea water, should be collected for laboratory analysis.
“The first thing in a house is the block. From the ones we have examined here, it has failed the test.
“The construction of this building is not up to 50 meters from the sea, showing that this land was reclaimed from the sea.”
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