By Eric Elezuo
For the families numbering close to 20, who lost loved ones, most of whom were very young children, in the collapsed school building on 63 Massey Street, Ita Faaji, Lagos Island, Wednesday March 13, 2019 will forever remain a doomsday in their lives.
The time was 10 am, and school activities were already in top gear; no one envisaged the calamity that was lurking around the corner, and like a flash in the sky, it happened. The entire building came down in one massive heap. A moment is too long to describe the devastation that happened, taking with it the lives of 20 individuals, 12 of whom were reportedly children of highly insignificant ages. They were pupils of Ohen Nursery and Primary School, situated on the second and third floors of the three storey building that housed their school. A building that became a heap of rubble in a twinkle of an eye.
The building, described by residents and neighbours as “very old” and “marked for demolition since last year”, crashed after giving signs of fatigue.
As at Thursday, rescue operations practically came to an end, leaving two sets of parents and families – the ones mourning their dead with pains agony and loud wailings and the ones tending to their loved ones, praying fervently to God that miracle will give them total healing.
However, on whichever divide every family finds itself, the trauma of the twenty fours rescue operation period is an experience of a life time. As the victims are brought out one after another, shouts of triump are heard, and followed by agonising wailings if he was dead or muffled and laboured laughter if the body still have breath in it. The wait was killing.
At the end of the day, about 20 persons were confirmed dead and 41 others sustained various degrees of injury.
A tale of woe, agony and pains trailed the discovery of loss of a family member.
Roqib was the only son and youngest among the children of his parents. His other siblings were Samiat and Rodiyat. Roqib was only 18 months. He was in the crèche of the school. He was pulled out of the rubble in a very bad shape, and taken to Massey Hospital. He couldn’t make it. He died at the hospital to the uncontrollable agony of his mother. His other sisters were however lucky as they pulled through.
In the Gambari area of the Island, an additional tragedy took place as a young mother committed suicide by taking the popular insecticide, sniper. She reportedly lost children aged four and six years in the disaster. Neighbours said that she had both children through a caesarean operation. The trauma of the death was just too much for her to bear.
The search for three years old Korede Ayinde was probably the most emotional. A team of family members, well wishers and neighbours trooped to the site of the crash on hearing the news. When they did not witness his rescue from the rubble, the group matched to the Island General Hospital where the young lad could not be identified among the injured receiving treatment. There was only one more place to check – the mortuary, and that was where the lifeless body of the child was found. He was identified by his father. The wailings that followed was heart rending.
Mrs. Adedayo Adedoyin was a mother of four children Malik, Fawas, Taiwo and Kehinde, but today, she is only a mother one as three of her children perished in the collapsed building. Only Kehinde made it alive with a broken leg. Her siblings were not so lucky as they were already dead before rescuers retrieved them from the rubble.
A pathetic angle to her tale was that Malik clocked 10 years on the same day he met his tragic end.
In tears, Abdulfatah Ayoola, a father who lost his son, Fawad in the crashed building, told the story of how his son did an unusual thing, asking him to pray for him before going to school.
Another story is told of another man who lost all three of his children. The man was reportedly said to have threatened to take his own life. He was quoted as saying that his children had been home in the last one week as a result non-payment of school fees. He returned them to school on the ill-fated day, paid their fees, and they ended up perishing in the building collapse. The man was distraught.
In many homes, only cries, pains, agony and sighs filled the vacuums.
The Lagos State government has vowed to begin integrity test on all buildings in the area with a view of demolishing anyone that fails the test. It is not known how sincere and far this particular riot act can go. Building has long become an issue which government has so far found difficult to tackle.