…Buhari, Ambode condole victims’ families
…Lagos Govt to foot medical bills of injured, orders probe into cause of disaster
Benjamin Omoike, Esther Taiwo, Lagos, Mathew Dadiya & Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
About 14 persons, including 12 school children were feared dead following the collapse of a three – storey building housing a primary school located at No. 14 Massey Street, Ita-Faaji area of Lagos Island.
The incident, eye witnesses said, occurred at about 10.30 am on Wednesday.
As at the time of filing this report, the corpses of the dead victims have been recovered and deposited at the morgue of the General Hospital, Lagos Island, while rescue efforts have intensified to rescue all those still trapped in the debris, even as the injured have been taken to a nearby hospital, Mercy Hospital, for treatment.
Search and rescue operation was ongoing at the collapsed building site at press time through the combined efforts of the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA) and other emergency agencies, such as the Lagos State Ambulance Service, Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos State Building Control Agency and the Federal Fire Service.
Others include the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the police, the state Rapid Response Squad, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Red Cross Society and Lagoss State Neighborhood and Safety Corps.
The rescue exercise was coordinated by the General Manager, LASEMA, Mr. Adesina Tiamiyu, with the deployment of heavy and light rescue equipment from LASEMA and its stakeholders.
The school which was identified as Ohen Nursery and Primary School was located at the last floor of the building.
Reacting to the disaster, President Muhammadu Buhari said he is extremely saddened by the collapse of the building, housing a school which left fatalities, particularly of small school children.
The President sympathised with the parents and relations of the deceased, wishing them God’s comfort.
Buhari, in a condolence message by his Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, on Wednesday, wished the injured speedy and complete recovery.
He commiserated with the government and people of Lagos State, pledging the assistance of the Federal Government as may be required by the state.
“It touches one to lose precious lives in any kind of mishap, particularly those so young and tender. May God grant everyone affected by this sad incident fortitude and succour,” the President said.
He charged the state government to do all that is needful to avoid such tragic developments in future.
Similarly, Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who visited the scene of the incident at about 2. 45pm, commiserated with families of the victims who lost their lives.
The governor pledged the state government’s readiness to offset the medical bills of the injured victims.
He said: “I want to commiserate with the families of those that lost their lives in this collapsed building. I want to quickly let Lagosians know that this is quite an unfortunate incident.
“All we are trying to do is to scale up this rescue operation. Our response units are already here; we are getting additional cranes to be able to go deeper than where we are now to rescue more lives.
“I just want to appeal to people that when we are doing this kind of rescue operation, yes, sympathisers will naturally come, but I want to appeal that they should give the rescue workers the chance to save more lives.”
Giving a brief of the situation, the governor said he had received information that the building was a residential complex, with the school operating illegally within the premises, adding that about two floors of the collapsed building sank into the ground.
He said most of the buildings in the area had been marked for demolition, but that some property owners in the area defied such notices, assuring that going forward, structural defective buildings would be demolished.
“The first observation is that this is an old building and it is only the penthouse and the other floors that we have been able to access to rescue people.
“So far, from what I have been briefed, we have rescued about 25 people and some already dead, but we were earlier informed that it was a school; the building is not technically a school, it is a residential building that was actually accommodating an illegal school so to speak on the second floor.
“Like we have said, we have been carrying out a lot of integrity tests on the buildings in this neighbourhood and as you can see, some of them have been marked for demolition, but we get resistance from landlords.
But, we must continue to save lives and we would intensify our efforts to see that those that have failed our integrity test, we would ensure that they are quickly evacuated and we bring the structures down,” he said.
Governor Ambode also said that a full scale investigation would be carried out immediately rescue operations are concluded, vowing that those found culpable would be severely dealt with in accordance with the relevant laws.
“This is unfortunate, but we will investigate what has happened and also see the punishment for whoever are the culprits.
That is the secondary level but the most important thing right now is to save lives and I just appeal to people that they should give us the chance to save more lives,” he said.
He assured that rescue operations would continue until all victims are rescued, adding that the general officer commanding 81 Division and the brigade commander were on ground to maintain peace and ensure smooth rescue operations.
“That is what is important to us and the more lives we save, the better for us,” he said.
Thereafter, the governor said his Deputy, Oluranti Adebule, visited the hospitals where some of the victims rescued had been taken to.
In a related development, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has directed all Federal Government health institutions in Lagos State to provide necessary health care support to the state government in ensuring adequate healthcare services to victims of the collapsed building.
Adewole, who is in touch with Lagos State officials, also commiserated with families of the dead and Lagos State government, while wishing the injured speedy recovery.
This was contained in a statement by the Director, Media and Public Relations in the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Boade Akinola and made available to The Daily Times on Wednesday.
Residents of the area where the disaster occurred complained about the increase in illegal schools in the area and they have appealed to the state government to close down such schools.
Meanwhile, President, National Association of Proprietors’ of Private Schools, Lagos State chapter, Alhaji Wasiu Adumadeyin, has disowned the school, saying the owners are not members of the association.
He said when he heard of the collapse of the school, he thought it was a member’s school in the neighborhood only to discover it was another school.