A building containing a primary school has collapsed in the Nigerian city of Lagos, with students trapped in the rubble.
The school was on the top floor of the three-storey building in Ita Faji on Lagos island, in Nigeria’s commercial capital.
Akinwunmi Ambode, the governor of Lagos State, said the school had been operating illegally in a residential building, according to a statement. In fact, he added, most of the buildings in the area had been marked for demolition. He called for a “full scale investigation” into the cause of the collapse.
But some residents at the scene blamed government negligence, saying the school building had been marked for demolition with a large “X,” but instead of being demolished, it was recently refurbished. Residents had complained of high rent, and some said they noticed signs of strain on the structure.
It’s a scene that has been repeated through the years in Lagos, Africa’s most populous city and one of the largest in the world, with an estimated 23.4 million people.
On Wednesday morning, it took rescue crews a full hour to arrive at the scene, according to residents, who said they immediately started digging through the debris.
“We started the rescue efforts and had rescued over 20 children alive before the emergency agencies came,” Adegoke Sharafa said.
The construction company Julius Berger sent equipment to help the effort. At one point, one rescuer said he saw 20 children inside and feared the debris would collapse on them before they could be saved. Some workers demanded oxygen masks from an ambulance, but none were available. Onlookers became increasingly angry that rescuers were ill-equipped.
A sea of spectators at the scene cheered and patted the backs of rescuers when they found victims, but created chaos for work crews and security officials. A video that circulated on social media showed a security official blocking one parent from the site.
The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) revealed its handicap in a Twitter post when it said an ‘unspecified number of people were recovered from the rubble before the arrival of the emergency responders on the incident scene”.
However, the agency said its rescue team and other agencies brought out 10 people alive, made up of 3 adult females, 1 adult male, 2 teenage boys, 1 young boy and 3 teenage girls. Dr Titilayo Goncalves, permanent secretary of the health ministry said 20 people were brought out from the wreckage and they were receiving treatment from various hospitals.
Other emergency services that joined in the rescue bid were LASG FIRE, LASAMBUS, NEMA, FED FIRE, Nigeria Police, NSCDC, LNSC and the RED CROSS.
At least eight people are confirmed dead and 37 others have now been rescued alive.
The four-storey building near Massey Children Hospital collapsed this morning while children were having classes on the third floor.
After the building collapse, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was recently re-elected to lead Nigeria, called on the state government “to do all that is needful, so that such tragic developments do not recur.”
His calls were echoed by other aid groups including Plan International Nigeria, which demanded those responsible be punished.