Rescuers on Wednesday recovered eight bodies and rescued 37 people from the wreckage of a collapsed four-story building in the Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos.
Children had been attending an “illegal school” inside the residential building when the structure collapsed, officials said.
“Thirty-seven people were rescued alive and eight were recovered dead,” Nigerian National Emergency Management Agency official Ibrahim Farinloye said in a statement.
Earlier, officials said that dozens of children were trapped inside the building, which collapsed mid-morning in an area near Itafaji market on Lagos Island.
In chaotic scenes, panicked parents, local residents and shocked onlookers rushed to the area as police, firefighters and medics staged a massive rescue operation.
A young man helping rescue efforts who gave his name only as Derin said that “at least 10 children” were trapped inside, but “thought to be alive.”
A reporter at the scene saw at least eight people pulled from the wreckage, including a small boy with blood on his face. Covered in dust, he was alive, but unconscious and appeared to be badly hurt.
One local resident who witnessed the moment of collapse said that there was no warning.
“We were smoking outside when the building just collapsed,” Olamide Nuzbah told reporters.
As rescuers worked furiously to reach those inside, distraught parents begged them to find their children.
“Please, save my child, save my child,” said one mother, whose seven-year-old daughter was trapped inside, as people tried 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.
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 told reporters that the building, which was in an advanced state of disrepair, had been “earmarked” for demolition by Lagos state authorities.
“It is a residential building that was actually accommodating an illegal school,” Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said, confirming that most buildings in the area had been marked for demolition, but added that some landlords had defied the move.
“We get resistance from landlords, but we must continue to save lives,” he said, pledging to step up measures against all structures that have failed to meet the correct standards, which would be “quickly evacuated” and demolished.
Lagos, which has a population of 20 million people, is made up of a collection of islands.
One of them is Lagos Island, a densely populated area that is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. It is characterized by its Afro-Brazilian architecture, a style brought over by thousands of freed slaves who returned home after decades working on plantations in Brazil.
Despite efforts to renovate the area, a large number of abandoned buildings have been taken over by families or businesses, despite being dilapidated and unsafe.
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