Lagos – The death toll from the collapse of a high-rise building in an upscale area of Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos has risen to 36, the emergency services said on Thursday.
The cause of the disaster is unknown but building collapses are tragically common in Africa’s most populous country, where millions live in dilapidated properties and construction standards are routinely ignored.
The 21-storey building under construction in Ikoyi district crumbled on Monday afternoon, trapping dozens of people working on the site.
“So far, 36 people – 33 males and three female – have been confirmed dead, while there were nine survivors,” Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, general manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, told AFP.
Dozens of distraught family members and friends of people missing were still waiting outside the scene on Thursday as rescue operations continued, with two excavators digging through the rubble.
A woman hiding her face with a beige veil was praying, while another woman sat next to her crying.
The authorities have set up a stand where people can come and fill out a form with personal details and pictures of missing loved ones.
“I just filled the form… I feel so bad,” said a man who arrived hours earlier from neighbouring Ogun state after hearing his brother, Michael Abdul, 27, a construction worker, was on site.
Four days into the rescue operation, sadness has replaced hope among many people waiting for news.
“Families are in shock… they don’t know if people are dead or alive, it’s very harsh,” said Arlene Olawoyin, who is providing psychological support to those in need.
“Some are still in denial, especially the ones that found a body, and some are still hopeful, waiting.”
The emergency services said Wednesday that 22 bodies had been recovered, but more were found later in the day.
Ibrahim Farinloye of the National Emergency Management Agency confirmed the new toll on Thursday.
He said rescuers “won’t give up until we reach ground zero”, adding that bigger equipment was brought in Tuesday evening for the operation.
The number of people on the site at the time of the collapse is still unknown.
Building collapses happen frequently in densely populated areas of Lagos, which is home to some 20 million people.
Two other smaller buildings in Lagos also collapsed on Tuesday following heavy rains, though no one was killed, Farinloye said.
Poor workmanship and materials and a lack of official oversight are often blamed.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said Wednesday the incident was a “terrible national disaster”, adding that “mistakes were made”.
The governor said he was setting up an independent panel to probe the causes of the collapse and prevent similar incidents in the future.
Picture: Getty Images