March 13, 2019 / 11:37 AM / 6 months ago

100 children feared trapped in collapse of Lagos building that housed school

LAGOS (Reuters) - An unknown number of people died and up to 100 children were among those feared trapped after a four-storey building containing a primary school collapsed in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos on Wednesday.

People gather as rescue workers search for survivors at the site of a collapsed building containing a school in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, Nigeria March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

Workers on top of the rubble shovelled debris away as thousands of people swarmed around the site to watch, many of them angry or hysterical, with police, ambulances, Red Cross workers, fire trucks and a fork lift in their midst.

Residents said around 100 children had attended the school, which was on the top levels of the building, and that eight had been rescued so far.

A Reuters reporter saw a boy of 10 being pulled from the rubble, covered in dust but with no visible injuries, and the crowd erupted into cheers as another child was pulled out.

Lagos Governor Akinwuni Ambode visited the site and offered commiserations to bereaved families, but did not say how many had died.

A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency’s southwest region said casualty figures were not yet available but that many people including children were believed to be trapped.

The Lagos emergency management agency said 10 people had been recovered alive since emergency responders arrived, and others beforehand.

Ambode said the school had been set up illegally and that buildings in the area were undergoing integrity testing.

The building was in the Ita-faji area of Lagos island, the original heart of the lagoon city before it expanded onto the mainland. Local resident Yomi Olaniyi, 42, said four buildings had collapsed in the area in the past few years.

A Google photograph of the collapsed building from early 2017 shows no sign of a school inside. The fourth storey only had the words “Olulade Villa (Psalm 27)” painted across its balcony.

Building collapses are frequent in Nigeria, where regulations are poorly enforced and construction materials often substandard.

In 2016, more than 100 people were killed when a church came down in the southeast, and in Lagos the same year, a five-storey building collapsed, killing at least 30 people.

A floating school built to withstand storms and floods also collapsed in Lagos in 2016, though no injuries were reported.

Reporting by Nneka Chile, Temilade Adelaja and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Additional reporting by Paul Carsten and Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Ola Lanre in Maiduguri; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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