Tragedy struck in Lagos on Wednesday when a three-storey building housing a children’s school collapsed at Massey Street, Lagos Island.
In addition to the pupils of Ohen Nursery and Primary School, the building also accommodated tenants before it caved in at about 10 a.m., witnesses said.
At least 40 pupils, including 10 dead bodies, had been pulled out of the rubble as at Wednesday afternoon, according to the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA).
“We were in the market, when we heard ‘gboom,’” said Yemisi Bankole, the deputy head of Itafaaji market.
Ohen Nursery and Primary School occupied the first and second floors of the collapsed building while residents live on the ground floor.
Upon the collapse of the building, many men in the neighborhood rushed to the scene and were able rescue few pupils before the arrival of LASEMA officials and other rescue teams.
Many pupils and teachers, however, are still trapped in the rubble as at Wednesday afternoon.
Casualties and corpses have been taken to nearby private and government hospitals, witnesses said.
As 2.19 p.m. when a PREMIUM TIMES reporter was at the scene, three children were rescued, one them unscathed. The second child was lifeless while the third one was struggling to remain conscious.
Akinwumi Ambode, the governor of Lagos state who visited the scene some minutes past 3 p.m. said it was unfortunate thing that such a school existed in the building.
He said the government would provide maximum support to the victims which includes paying the hospital bills.
“It is evident that Lagos state is not aware of such school, it is illegal and the culprits will face the law,” Mr Ambode said.
Adesina Tiamiyu, the general manager of LASEMA who was present at the scene told journalists that people living in the area had been very helpful as they had begun rescue operations before his team’s arrival.
He said they are still working to ensure that those that are still trapped get rescued.
“Parents will be allowed to identify their children, we’ll not stop until we are sure that there is no one left in the building.”
He further said once the rescue mission has ended, the actual figure will be revealed.
Many parents were seen crying in front of Massey Children Hospital situated on the same street.
A resident who identified herself simply as Shekinah, said she never knew there was a school in the collapsed building because the government had marked the building more than three times.
“Government has marked it several times but they’ll only patch it and put tiles after bribing the officials,” another woman who declined to say her name added.
Ayinke Busari, a friend to a parent at the school, said that she is there in place of her friend, Taiwo, who had been taken home to take care of her baby.
“She has seven children in the school, two have been found but they are yet to locate the remaining ones. We’ve sent her home because she has a baby,” Mrs Busari said.
While commiserating with families of those who had lost their loved ones, Mr Ambode described the incident as quite unfortunate.
He said there are “two floors sunked into the ground.”
“The first observation is that the foundation of this building is an old one. Like what you have seen , two floors have gone under the ground. It is only the pent house and the other floor that children have been rescued,” the governor said.
“So far what we have been briefed is that they have rescued about 35 pupils, some already dead. But we were earlier informed it was a school.
“It is not technically a school but a residential building that is actually accommodating an illegal school so to speak.
“All we are trying to do is to continue this operation. Our response team are already here. We have gotten another crane to be able to go deeper down and rescue more children.”