Despair at site of Lagos luxury apartment collapse as families watch rescue effort

The content originally appeared on: CNN
Several victims were believed to have been alive in the immediate aftermath of the collapse. On Tuesday, rescue workers said they spoke to several people trapped in the wreckage.
One of those was 26-year-old Zainab Sanni, a microbiologist who was working with Fourscore Homes, the building’s developers, as part of the country’s mandatory youth service program.
On Tuesday, rescue workers told her family she had identified herself by name. Her family was among many others who called out the names of their loved ones to rescue workers, who in turn said they were communicating with people under the rubble. It was a fleeting moment of joy and relief for over a dozen families.
On Wednesday, rescue workers recovered Sanni’s dead body.
“I don’t know why they were not able to reach her in time,” Sanni’s brother, Fawaz, told CNN. “Had it been they were working consistently, had it been they had enough equipment, they would have saved my sister.”
On Thursday, the death toll from the collapse of the high-rise building under construction rose to 32, according to Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. However, the National Emergency Agency puts the death toll at 36. Nine people have been rescued alive, according to official figures.
The wails of the relatives of the victims filled the air as rescue workers pulled dead bodies from the destruction on Wednesday and Thursday. Heavy construction machinery pummeled the wreckage where scores of victims have not yet been recovered.
“All they’ve done is carried dead bodies out of this place … they’re taking no caution whatsoever,” said Annarita Iwelu in a live Instagram video from the site. Iwelu is the sister of 34-year-old Samuel Iwelu, whose body was recovered from under the pile of rubble and mangled steel on Thursday night.
Before his body was found, Iwelu’s family remained near the site overnight, keeping vigil to identify the bodies, and to look for a sign of life.
“They’re literally scooping and dragging things. Dragging rods from left right and center,” said Annarita, her voice fraught with outrage. “If somebody’s hidden somewhere … you will cover them up, you will drag things on their heads. You would be the ones that end up killing them.”
One of the victims was confirmed as Oyinye Enekwe, 26, in a statement released by her family to CNN. She had started work as a personal assistant at Fourscore only a week earlier.
“Her light shone brilliant… What’s most sad is that she was also crushed by the greed, corruption and wickedness of elite business and government leaders running rampantly unchecked in Nigeria,” the Enekwe family said.
Families appeared to sink deeper into despair as they watched the rescue effort. Annarita Iwelu also said she witnessed rescue workers watching tutorials on YouTube — the sight, she said, added insult to injury.
In response, the Lagos State Governor, Sanwo-Olu told reporters that “heavily sophisticated” machinery had been brought in by another agency and some of the consultants were not familiar with it.
One woman threw herself at the feet of the governor. “My son is in there! My son is in there,” her pleas ringing out amid the cacophony of excavators, which some of the relatives likened to a demolition process.
During the Governor’s address outside the collapsed building Thursday, desperate relatives pleaded with him for assistance to find their loved ones.
The collapsed building, in the upscale neighborhood of Ikoyi, was advertised as “Luxury in the Sky,” where apartments started at $1.2 million per unit.
Locals criticized the slow response from emergency services in the aftermath of the collapse on Monday, with one witness telling CNN “we’ve waited four or five hours now!”
Another man yelled: “People are dying!”
In desperation, a number of people resorted to digging people out with their bare hands, pulling several people from the rubble before emergency services arrived on Monday.

Investigation ongoing

The building had been under construction for two years.
The investigation into the cause of the collapse is ongoing, and officials on the ground are evaluating possible damage to the surrounding structures, according to a statement from the Lagos state government.
CNN contacted Fourscore Heights Limited, the parent company of Fourscore Homes, but had not received a response at time of publishing.
Building collapses in Nigeria have increased in recent years, often due to lack of adherence to regulatory controls, poor knowledge of construction and sub-standard building materials.
In 2019, the collapse of two separate buildings, including one housing a school, left dozens of people dead.
An expert told CNN at the time that more than 1,000 buildings were at risk of collapsing in Lagos.