Evidence proved that all victims of the 21-storey building collapse on Gerard Road, Ikoyi, died before rescue operations began, an official said on Thursday.
The Director-General of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Oluwafemi Oke-Osayintolu, made the disclosure during a coroner’s inquest into the November 1, 2021 building collapse which killed 46 people.
One of the survivors had said they were working on a cracked pillar on the first floor of the skyscraper when it crumbled.
The survivor, a labourer at the site, was interviewed in one of the hospitals where he was recuperating then.
”I was working with my colleague. I have been told not to tell anybody. That day, we were working on the first floor, Engineer Kola and Engineer Ola told us there is one pillar on the first floor, the pillar was cracked, the engineers told us to break the pillar so that they could fix another pillar there because the pillar is really big they have confidence that nothing would happen to the pillar if they set another one,” he said.
“Suddenly we heard a noise, the thing (pillar) started to shake, I and Monday (another labourer) ran when we saw that the pillar was starting to shake. When I was running, I fell down I was struggling to come out.”
He said he managed to move out of the building and a gateman helped him onto a motorcycle that took him to the hospital before the arrival of the government’s emergency responders.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had given the names of survivors in the tragedy and set up a panel to ascertain the cause of the collapse.ⓘ
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Oke-Osayintolu was led in evidence by A.S. Odugbemi, counsel to Lagos State Building Control Agency.
He testified that rescue operations were carried out by both professionals and non-professionals who assisted with equipment.
The official said that LASEMA was confronted with a “classical national emergency” and that as the Incident Commander mandated by Governor Sanwo-Olu, he gave instructions to the rescue team.
The director-general said that the rescue team moved into the scene following a primary assessment, adding that the team partitioned the ‘building’ into Quadrums 1 to 4 and employed heavy and life-saving equipment.
He said that drones and delsa equipment (used for detection of life) enabled both primary and secondary emergency responders to determine that there was no life in the debris before work began.
Mr Oke-Osayintolu was asked by Mr Ola Adeosun counsel to Prowess Engineering Nig. Ltd., whether his agency’s actions in the course of the rescue operation led to death of some trapped people.
“My lord, with my medical background, I have attended to a lot of emergencies within the state and federal, I would say, ‘No’.
“Where we put the excavator is the first quadrum. We use the delsa to detect if there is someone alive, and I say this type of collapse building was unique.ⓘ
“When it piled on one another, there would not be air going in, it would compress the victims, and the way our response was operated, we divided the place into quadrums.
“We used a delsa and drone, I can say that probability is close to zero,” the direct-general said.
Mr Adeosun further asked, “Are you telling this court that before moving your equipment, you must have confirmed that there was no person alive?”
Responding, the LASEMA boss said, “Hundred per cent yes, my lord, there was nobody that died in the course of our intervention, to the best of my knowledge.”
Earlier, Muritala Olawale, a structural engineer and Managing Director of Prowess Engineering Nig. Ltd., tendered a document on soil test conducted at the building site.
The document was admitted in evidence and marked as Exhibit by the Coroner, Alexander Komolafe.
The inquest was adjourned until February 4. (NAN)