LAGOS – As rescuers combed through the remains of the school building that collapsed Wednesday, March 13 in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos early Thursday 14, at least eight people were confirmed dead and over 100 others injured.
Aljazeera reports that the incident took place near Itafaji market on Lagos Island at around 10 am local time.
While awaiting official rescue efforts, many locals and passersby began their own attempts to free people from the debris, using their bare hands to shift slabs of concrete.
“Dozens of children were trapped inside,” Adesina Tiamiyu, head of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), which is supervising the rescue operation, told reporters.
So far, emergency workers pulled 40 people alive from the rubble, some of them badly injured, he said.
Workers from the Red Cross and police shovelled debris away as thousands of people swarmed around the accident site, erupting into cheers as limp forms were pulled from the rubble.
Residents of the area said about 100 children attended the school, which was on the third floor of the building. The structure also housed offices, shops and residential units.
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.
“I was passing by and heard a house collapsed. I had to straightaway reach people living in there to rescue those that could be rescued,” a man involved in the rescue efforts told reporters.
“At least some people have been rescued and taken to hospitals. They are mainly students as there is a school there,” he said.
One local resident told AFP news agency the building collapsed without warning.
“We were smoking outside when the building just collapsed,” said Olamide Nuzbah.
As night fell on the scene, bright lights were brought in to allow search efforts to go on.
“We will continue to go ahead until we are sure no one is buried under the rubble,” Tiamiyu said. “What the excavator is doing is carefully going through the rubble, clearing it and looking for possible trapped persons, either dead or alive, and once we see them, we will stop and bring them out”.
Lagos is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, resulting in fierce competition for land. It is not clear whether the collapsed building failed to meet safety standards.
In September 2014, 116 people died when a six-floor building where a celebrity televangelist was preaching collapsed in Lagos.
Two years later, at least 60 people were killed when a church came down in southeastern Nigeria.