Saturday 15 April 2023

I Was On Seventh Floor When Banana Island Building Collapsed– Site Engineer Recounts Experience

The peace and serenity of Banana Island, Ikoyi, a highbrow Lagos community, was shattered after a seven-storey building under construction collapsed on Wednesday.

Like fire in harmattan, the news quickly spread as emergency management workers hurried to the scene to pull out people who were trapped under the rubble.

While some of the victims were taken to the Lagos Island General Hospital, others were admitted to the Falomo Police Hospital, Ikoyi.

The site engineer and supervisor, Timothy Omotosho, was among those lucky to escape with his life.

Due to the severity of his injuries, he was rushed to the general hospital, where doctors pulled him out of the jaws of death.

When The PUNCH correspondent visited the medical facility, he found the victim, along with four other critically injured victims, lying on the bed.

Omotosho sustained injuries on his head and had some portions of his leg and arms heavily plastered.

While recalling the incident, he said he was supervising the concrete casting on the seventh floor when the slab suddenly broke into two.

The supervisor noted that unlike other workers who started fleeing for their lives, he was too much in shock to move.

He said, “We were casting the seventh-floor slab. I was supervising the casting of the concrete. We were like 80 per cent done; before I knew what was happening, a side of the slab broke into two. Some of my guys immediately started running down the stairs, but I didn’t know what to do. I was in shock. I was just standing there.

“The next thing, the building collapsed on me when I was still on the seventh floor and when I opened my eyes, I was on the ground floor. All I know is someone carried me and I found myself in a vehicle.”

Omotosho said the concrete used on the site was pre-mixed by a company and every batch was tested for integrity before it was used.

He noted that he could not fathom what went wrong that led to the collapse of the building.

Three other victims in the same ward with Omotosho sustained varying degrees of injuries.

While one had an injury on his shoulder, the other had an injury on both knees.

The last victim had his head all wrapped in a bandage with one of his eyes completely covered.

It was gathered that he would be going for a CT scan to ascertain the extent of his injuries.

The fifth survivor was at a different section of the general hospital, where he was being treated for a broken spine.

When the correspondent visited the Falomo Police Hospital, Ikoyi, a nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 10 people were rushed to the facility.

“Six of the 10 have been discharged; they sustained minor injuries, but the remaining four are still under observation,” she added.

In the Accident and Emergency Ward, there was one patient, while two other patients, a carpenter, Ramon Oladapo, and one David, were admitted to the surgical ward.

Co-worker saved me – Carpenter

The PUNCH correspondent observed that friends and families were with their loved ones, but Oladapo was alone in a corner, visibly in pain.

When asked where his family was, the artisan, who had his cell phone by his bedside, said he did not tell his wife and children that he was at the scene of the building collapse.

The 37-year-old told Saturday PUNCH that after he noticed that the building was about to collapse, he started running down the stairs from the seventh floor where he was working.

On getting to the fourth floor, the structure fell on him.

He said, “I am a carpenter and I was working under the decking of the seventh floor when the building caved in. As I heard the sound, I tried to find a way out immediately.

“I started running down the stairs; I managed to make it to the fourth floor before the building gave way. I just saw myself under the decking and I started shouting for help. God opened a way for me; my co-workers discovered me and pulled me out.

“I am married with three children. I live at Kola, after Iyana-Ipaja. My wife and children are not aware that a building collapsed on me or I am in a hospital. I do not want to tell her so she doesn’t become worried and afraid.

“I had a minor chest surgery this afternoon (Thursday). I have been experiencing pain in my chest and I have injuries on my hands and legs, although they are not much. I am grateful to be alive.”

The Lagos State Government, in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, said the state would bear the cost of treatment of the victims and provide post-trauma counselling support for them

He also noted of the 25 persons rescued by the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, 16 with moderate injuries were admitted to the General Hospital, Odan, Lagos Island, and Police Hospital, Falomo, for treatment and care.

Omotosho explained that nine others with minor injuries, such as bruises, were treated and discharged at the site by Lagos State Ambulance Services.

“Three with various injuries, including blunt traumatic chest injury, knee injuries, deep lacerations and others, are on admission.

“At the General Hospital, Odan, Lagos Island, there are five patients with more serious injuries,” he added.

Lagos, construction company differ

However, the commissioner noted that following the collapse of the seven-storey building, the state government had ordered that all development projects in the highbrow area be placed on hold.

This, he said, was to enable the government to determine the number of buildings being constructed without approval in the area and to know if all the approved buildings were being built in line with the approval limits provided.

He said, “Preliminary investigations have shown that the incident occurred during concrete casting. Eyewitnesses said one of the concrete mixer trucks rammed into some load-bearing columns of the building, causing a loud bang and leading to the collapse.

“The building was hitherto sealed by the Lagos State Government for not having the approval to commence construction, but the developers continued to build, hiding under the security of their estate/gated community.”

However, a representative of Joe Faraday Limited, the construction company in charge of the project and the Chief Security Officer in charge of the Banana Island site, Anthony Onama, said the building was duly approved.

While speaking exclusively to Saturday PUNCH, Onama said, “The report that the building was not approved is false. There are no building plans to the best of my knowledge that Joe Faraday handles that we don’t do the needful. At every stage, we also do integrity tests. We have our external consultants who are experts, including our internal engineers and these people follow every articulated step to get through every process of our structure.”

When asked what could have gone wrong with the building, Onama said, “Nature. It could be nature; let’s just leave it that way because accidents happen.

“We are not babies in this industry. If you go to Park View, Ikoyi, 65 to 70 per cent of the buildings there were built by us. In Banana Island, Ikoyi, we have structures everywhere. But when things happen like this, people will want to talk out of proportion.”

Govt to decide fate of site buildings

The Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Mobolaji Ogunlende, while addressing journalists at the scene of the incident, said the process of excavation would be concluded in three to four days.

He said, “We received a call late (Wednesday) evening on our emergency number 112, telling us about this incident. We came here immediately and we have been here since then. Upon getting to the scene, we realised that the building had come down.

“By the time I got here, LASEMBUS was already on ground. The agency had treated about seven to eight people with minor injuries and a few of them that we felt needed to go to a hospital had been taken to the hospital last night and most of them had just minor injuries.

“As of this moment (Thursday), we have not recorded any fatality. We’re here with our equipment and what we’re trying to do is go through the rubble very quickly to see if and indeed there are any fatalities that we can recover.”

He noted that after investigations, the government would decide what to do about three other buildings also on the site of the structure.

Ogunlende said, “It’s a site of four interlinked units; one has been compromised and the other three are still standing. The Lagos State government is looking to do an integrity test on it; investigation is ongoing and at the end of our investigation, the next steps will be decided.

“We have all our agencies here: LASBCA, physical planning, LASEMA, all doing what they are supposed to do professionally. When that is done, we will be able to ascertain the status of the other buildings and further steps will be taken.”

The Permanent Secretary of LASEMA, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said emergency management workers got to the scene 10 minutes after receiving a distress call.

He said, “We moved in with our sophisticated equipment, the land size was divided in four quadrants and we checked each quadrant. We did not locate anybody under the rubble.

“However, because we are meticulous about what we are doing, we are using a hammer, excavator and cranes together; we started moving from one layer to another. In the process, seven people were rescued alive, treated on the spot and discharged. Only one person was taken to a private hospital, where he is receiving adequate treatment.

“At the outer quadrant, we have already reached ground zero and we will get to ground zero on all the other quadrants to ensure transparency and to ensure that nobody is left there.”

The LASEMA boss said “holistic investigations” would be carried out on buildings suspected to have been impacted by the incident.

The Lagos State information commissioner, Omotosho, in a statement, said LASEMA scanned the building with “a high-precision 3-D Laser Imagery System” for life and found no evidence of anyone trapped in the rubble.

He noted that a roll call was also done by the site supervisors, with everyone accounted for.

One found dead

However, Omotosho, in another statement on Friday, said LASEMA workers recovered the body of a male adult unaccounted for by the site supervisors.

He said, “One body has been recovered from the rubble of the collapsed building at 1st Avenue, Banana Island, Ikoyi.

“When a roll call was done by the site supervisors, everyone was accounted for. Nobody could ascertain whether the victim whose body was found this morning was on the site – as of the time the roll call was taken.”

Many Lagos residents have lost their lives to past building collapse incidents in the state.

No fewer than 217 persons reportedly lost their lives in 10 major building collapse incidents in the state in the last nine years.

On September 12, 2014, a guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, collapsed and killed 115 persons.

On March 8, 2016, a five-storey building owned by Lekki Gardens crumbled, killing 34 persons.

On July 11, 2020, three persons died, while nine were injured when a three-storey building collapsed on Freeman Street, Lagos Island.

On November 1, 2021, a 21-storey building on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, collapsed, killing 45 persons, including the building developer.

Saturday Punch

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