A total of 36 people died when a 21-story building collapsed on Monday in Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos, rescue services said Thursday as they continued their search operations.
“For now, 36 people – 33 men and three women – have been pulled from the rubble and there are nine survivors,” Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, director general of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (Lasema), told AFP.
The building under construction in the affluent neighborhood of Ikoyi collapsed Monday afternoon in undetermined circumstances, while several dozen workers were on the site.
The collapse of buildings is a frequent tragedy in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, where millions of people live in dilapidated buildings and where construction laws are regularly flouted.
Around the site, families and relatives of the victims were still waiting for news on Thursday, three days after the disaster, while heavy equipment was deployed to help with the clearing operations.
A woman hiding her face with a beige veil was praying, while another, sitting next to her, was crying. Authorities have set up a booth where people can come and fill out a form with personal details and photos of their missing loved ones.
“I just filled out the form… I feel so bad,” said a man who arrived a few hours earlier from neighboring Ogun State after learning that his brother, Michael Abdul, 27, a construction worker, was at the site.
The number of people present at the site at the time of the collapse remains undetermined. An investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the collapse of the building, which has been reduced to a huge pile of rubble.
Four days after rescue operations began, sadness has overtaken hope.
“Families are in shock…they don’t know if people are dead or alive, it’s very hard,” said Arlene Olawoyin, who provides psychological support to those in need.
“Some are still in denial, especially those who have found a body, and others still have hope, they are waiting,” she continued.
By Wednesday, rescue services had put the death toll at 22. Several bodies were discovered during the night, said rescuers.
Ibrahim Farinloye, an official of the National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) confirmed Thursday the new death toll of 36.
On Tuesday, two other smaller buildings also collapsed in Lagos after heavy rains, but no one was killed, he said.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said Wednesday that the incident was a “terrible national disaster,” adding that “mistakes were made.”
A commission of inquiry made up of independent members has been set up to shed light on the tragedy, he said.