Rescue workers on Wednesday retrieved 16 more bodies from the building collapse site in Ikate, Lekki bringing the dead toll to 34 as at 4pm.
This is just as many persons, bodies were suspected to still be trapped underneath the rubble of the five-storey building that caved in at the wee hours of Tuesday.
Meanwhile, officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) have released the corpse of one Aba Ali to his relatives for burial after proper documentation.
Ali’s body was handed over to one Gaji Mohammed who said the family was proceeding to Marecas cemetery to bury him in line with Islamic rites.
Stench from the retrieved bodies rent the air, an indication that they were already decomposing.
Meanwhile, residents and relatives of victims have punctured claims by the developer, Lekki Gardens that construction work has been suspended since January.
They described as complete falsehood, the company’s claim that work was suspended after the defect in the structure was discovered, insisted that more workers were brought in on Monday because they were about to begin casting (concrete work).
Similarly, a staff with Lekki Gardens, Vincent Paul disclosed that work was done in the building last week.
He said: “We have never stopped work on the site. I have worked with the Lekki Garden for four years. I know how they complete their work. I am still looking for my friend Sunday John, 29.
“I saw him last on Monday. He told me he had work to do here. But I told him I had other things to attend to. I have called his mobile line but it hasn’t been reachable. I have checked all the bodies and I didn’t see him. He is married with a child but his family is based in Benue State.”
Secretary, Hausa Community in Eti-Osa LGA, Auwalu Hassan, said 25 northerners were involved in the mishap, adding that six bodies have been retrieved.
He identified some of the victims as Johson, Yohana, Maria with four children, Yakub, John, Elias and Yohana), Isiak, saidu, Gwoni, Buhari, Abba and Mustapha.
An artisan who miraculously escaped the disaster said he left the building on Monday night out of anger.
“When I heard that the site engineer was not coming to pay our N10, 000 weekly wages and N500 daily feeding allowance, I left the site angrily because the engineer had defaulted for two weeks. Although he promised to pay on Tuesday but contacting him on phone was futile.
I called my elder brother, Alli Abbah, to know if he (engineer) had fulfilled his promise. But the response from my brother was that the building had caved in. He further said that he was trapped under the rubble and that he had sustained severe injury on his right thigh. I lost my friend to the collapse. It is a painful incident.”
At the Island General Hospital were some of the rescued survivors were rushed to, it was gathered that one of them died few seconds after arrival the hospital and was moved to the mortuary.
The Nation gathered that the victim might have died because his friends gave him water after he pleaded with them that he was thirsty.
Sources at the hospital said 13 persons were brought in for treatment, adding that 12 of them were at the Emergency wards, while one passed on.
They disclosed that two of the victims were wheeled to the X-ray section, complaining about the inadequacies of the wheelchairs.
He said: “One of the rescued workers of the collapsed building was wheeled to the X-ray centre few minutes ago.
“The facility used in wheeling the patients was not effective because the wheelers spend more time struggling to wheel the patients to the next ward where they are expected to receive treatment.”
Confirming the death toll, LASEMA’s General Manager, Michael Akindele and the Coordinator, National Emergency management Agency (NEMA) South-West, Yakubu Sulaimon said that though the rescue operation was yet to be completed but additional 16 bodies have been recovered from the site, increasing the death toll to 34.
“Our aim was to rescue more persons than recovery of bodies.18 persons were recovered few hours after the building caved in on Tuesday.
“We have about three excavators working to rescue whoever is left under the rubbles. We are working to ensure that the bodies are not mutilated during the rescue operation. The rescue operation has reached over 70 percent.
“For Muslims who were agitating for the release of their relatives’ bodies, we are working on proper documentation on how to release the bodies to them. They will need to present police report, Lagos state government official report and a means of identification,” said Akindele.
Akindele also disclosed that the state government might pull down down a nearby five-storey building still under construction to avoid a similar situation.
The building being constructed by same company which has been sealed, already has visible cracks all over it.
At the time of filing this report, the Lagos State Safety Commission and the State Building Control Agency, LASBCA have sealed over 20 buildings in the community.