As many as 100 children and many others were feared trapped yesterday after a building containing a primary school collapsed in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos. A reporter at the scene saw a boy of 10 being pulled from the rubble covered in dust but with no visible injuries. A crowd erupted into cheers as another child was pulled from the wreckage. The two were among eight children residents said had been rescued so far.
Workers on top of the rubble shoveled debris away as thousands of people swarmed around the rescue site — dozens watching from rooftops and hundreds more packed into the surrounding streets. “It is believed that many people including children are currently trapped in the building,” said Ibrahmi Farinloye, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency’s southwest region, adding that casualty figures were not yet available.
Residents of the area said around 100 children attended the school, which was on the third floor of the building. At the site, many people were shouting and screaming. A fight almost broke out as anger at the collapse boiled over. In the crowd’s midst stood ambulances, fire trucks and a fork lift. Workers from the Red Cross and police were on hand. The building was in the Ita-faji area of Lagos island, the original heart of the lagoon city before it expanded onto the mainland.
“We are still trying to find out how many are trapped inside,” said police officer Seun Ariwyo, who added that the number was probably scores. He said “at least 20 have been brought out” but did not say whether they were alive or dead. One local resident who witnessed the moment of collapse said there was no warning. “We were smoking outside when the building just collapsed,” Olamide Nuzbah told in pidgin English.
As rescuers worked furiously to reach those inside, distraught parents begged them to find their children. “Please, save my child, save my child!” wept one traumatised mother whose seven-year-old daughter was trapped inside, as people tried in vain to console her. School bags, toys and clothes could be seen among the piles of rubble as a bulldozer tried to clear a path through some of the wreckage to help the rescue efforts. As the day wore on, a correspondent saw several children being brought out, at least one of whom appeared to be dead.
Elsewhere, hundreds of local residents tried to help, passing water and helmets through to dust-covered rescuers working tirelessly to sift through the rubble, some of whom appeared to be distressed. Many locals said that the building, which was in an advanced state of disrepair, had been “earmarked” for demolition by the authorities. Lagos, which has a population of 20 million people and serves as Nigeria’s economic capital, is made up of a collection of islands.
One of them is Lagos Island, a densely-populated area which is one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. It is characterised by its Afro-Brazilian architecture, a style brought over by thousands of freed slaves who headed back home after decades working the plantations in Brazil.