Death toll rises in Nigeria building collapse

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nearly 30 people are now thought to have died after a 4-storey building collapsed in the Nigerian city of Lagos. More bodies, some alive, and others dead, are still being recovered from the wreckage in the Ebute Metta area of Lagos after the apartment block suddenly gave in on Tuesday evening, local time.

The building also housed restaurants and 18 shops on the ground floor and rescuers are unsure of how many people remain trapped below the ground.

The Nigerian Red Cross said it believed around 75 people may have been inside, but survivors are claiming the death toll is considerably higher. So far, 50 survivors have been hauled from the wreckage, and still, three days after the collapse, voices are being heard from below the rubble.

"People have survived in this kind of situation for up to five days,” Timothy Oladele, the Chairman of the Nigerian Red Cross told Reuters, “We are just in the third day in our own case and by God's grace we will find some alive."

The building, in Nigeria’s largest city, is thought to have been just three years old, and officials are blaming poor construction for the collapse. Local media are reporting that city planners only gave permission for a two storey building on the site, not four. The owner of the construction company is believed to have fled; Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu pledged to punish the rogue developer. ”We know their other buildings and definitely, they will not go unpunished," he told local press today.

The sprawling industrial city of Lagos has a history of poor construction and maintenance. In March 2006, one of the city’s tallest buildings, damaged after a fire, collapsed during a thunderstorm.