LAGOS, Nigeria -- The number of bodies recovered from a collapsed high-rise apartment building in Nigeria’s most populous city has risen to 36, an emergency official told The Associated Press Thursday.
Ibrahim Farinloye of Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency said 15 bodies more bodies have been recovered from the site in Lagos since Wednesday afternoon, including two earlier reported by AP.
As the rescue effort entered day four Thursday, hopes started to grow thin for dozens of families and residents who lined up at the entrance of the premises and begged to join in the rescue effort, ignoring warnings by gun-wielding soldiers that they should stay away from the scene.
“They couldn’t allow me to check whether my son is alive or dead,” said Abel Godwin, who traveled 722 kilometers (448 miles) from the nation’s capital, Abuja, to check the hospital where victims are being treated in search of his 18-year-old son who had been employed at the site.
No survivors have been rescued from the pile of debris since Tuesday, with nine of those brought out alive earlier in stable condition.
The 21-story luxury apartment building that was being built toppled Monday while construction workers were on the site, some of whom were artisans who started work that day.
It’s unknown how many people could still be trapped inside the rubble, but one construction worker at the scene had estimated that 100 people were working there when it collapsed, meaning that 55 people could still be missing.
Segun Akande of the Nigerian Red Cross has told The AP that though rescue efforts continue, “the chances are very slim; very, very slim," that survivors remain.
When the building collapsed, it took about 3 hours for officials to launch the rescue effort. That angered families and residents who further complained that the search for survivors is not fast enough, despite the use of four excavators, life-detecting tools, water and oxygen. Rescue workers are fatigued.
The governor of Lagos has given an independent panel 30 days to unravel the cause of the accident and whether the project developers had fully complied with building laws. The six-member panel is also to examine whether there were any lapses by state regulators in overseeing the project.
“We feel a lot of concerns of family members. People are indeed upset," Governor Sanwo-Olu told those present at the site on Wednesday. “I can assure you we are doing everything,” he said, promising that criminal charges will be filed against those indicted in the disaster.
Building collapses in Nigeria are frequent, including in Lagos which recorded four such accidents last year, resulting in five casualties including three children. Authorities continued to face immense pressure over the latest incident amid accusations that they failed to heed previous warnings and adopt past recommendations.
“I think there is only one material testing laboratory in Lagos today. Recommendations were made over 10 years ago, let’s have other certified laboratory testing places,” said David Majekodunmi, chairman of the Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Architects.