When a three-storey building under construction at Ilasamaja area of Lagos collapsed on Thursday, May 18, construction workers at the scene said the incident was so sudden that they had no time to run out.
By the time rescue workers were able to get to the victims, three of them had died.
At least two of the 19 injured survivors lost their legs in the collapse, our correspondent was told by rescue workers.
One of the victims who lost their lives, Taiwo Olaniyi, was working on the site with his twin brother, Kehinde. They were both plumbers.
Kehinde said they are from Ipobe, one of the Yoruba-speaking parts of Benin Republic.
Kehinde, 32, explained that he was with his twin brother and two others in a section of the collapsed building before he left the three others to go out.
“I had to go home in Alagbado where we live temporarily to do something. I spent less than three hours away. By the time I got back, I just saw a crowd on the street. I raced to the site and screamed when I saw that it had collapsed,” he said.
Rescuers said Kehinde got to the scene screaming “Taye mi da? Taye mi da? (Where is my twin? Where is my twin?)” but he was pleaded with to calm down as victims were still being brought out.
Kehinde said he started to pray fervently as they brought out victims, wishing that his twin would be among the survivors.
Kehinde later raced to the Isolo General Hospital where many of the survivors were taken to.
“I rushed back to the site in fear when I did not see my twin brother there. I kept on praying that he would be brought out alive,” he explained.
Taiwo was later brought out dead. It was learnt that as soon as Kehinde spotted the body of his brother, he let out a scream and was about to hit his head on a concrete beam in anguish, when he was grabbed by rescuers.
Kehinde said “If I had not left for home, I would have also died with my twin brother because we would have been together. We have always been together all our lives. We did everything together. Now a part of me is dead now.
“Now, all we want is just to get his body and take it for burial. I am pleading that they should just release his body to me. All we came to Nigeria for was to make a living. But we are going home with death.”
Among victims who were retrieved dead was another plumber, Emeka Okeke, 25, an Enugu State indigene.
His uncle, who bears the same surname as the victim, lamented that the deceased and his brother, Chima were handed to him by their parents in Enugu.
According to him, the last he saw of his nephew was when he left the site to go to Festac.
Okeke said he still did not know how to inform the deceased’s parents that he was dead.
He said he would have chosen to die in place of his nephew if he was given a choice.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government said it would prosecute the developers of the project.
The state government alleged that the development was once sealed by physical planning officials before the developers violated the stop-work order.
The Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Wasiu Anifowose, said the three-storey building was disapproved by officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, but the developers illegally broke the seal to continue work.
Anifowose said the development was sealed because it did not meet regulations, while the materials on site were substandard.
He said, “This particular building had been monitored and sealed off. Our officers had come back to monitor for compliance but they were prevented by hoodlums from carrying out their statutory responsibilities
“Yesterday, before the collapse, our officials were there again but were chased back to the office to reinforce when this tragedy happened.”