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FEATURE: Sorrow, tears on Freeman Street

Residents and survivors of Freeman Street have been thrown into sorrow, tears, agony, and outrage, as they continue to count their losses after Saturday’s tragic building collapse that killed three people:and rendered many others homeless.

Freeman Street, a bustling community inside the Lagos Island area of Lagos metropolis, was thrown into moaning after two buildings in the neighbourhood crumbled on Saturday morning around 2 am. And Nigeria Xpress gathered that the two buildings involved are a three-story building at 18, and the bungalow that stood next to it, at number 16, both located in Freeman street.

According to eyewitnesses that spoke said the tragic incident occurred when the three-story caved-in, crumbled and also crushed a bungalow next to it, and killed three persons, including a seven-year-old child, and rendered dozens of residents homeless. Sadly, the scene was all too familiar in an area where the Lagos State Government had marked almost 300 buildings for demolition last year, after a collapsed building disaster at the Ita-faaji area, killed 20 people and injured scores of residents in March.

Confirming the incident, the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu in a press statement, affirmed that three persons died, while nine others were rescued alive, underneath the rubbles of the two buildings. “The LASEMA Emergency Response Team, Shark Squad, rescued a total of 9 occupants alive and rushed them hospital, while three fatalities were recorded and handed over to State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit, SEHMU, for onward transfer to the morgue. The Agency’s Excavator has been activated to carry out controlled demolition of the building to avert a secondary incident.”

READ ALSO: https://www.thexpressng.com/2020/07/13/lagos-doctors-begin-3-day-warning-strike/

When The Nigeria Xpress visited the scene, residents of the community vented their outrage over the incident, saying that the calamity would have been averted if the state government was proactive. Many of them that spoke revealed that the three-story had been marked for demolition over three years ago by the state government but they kept foot-dragging to remove the faulty structure.

We have been complaining over that building, ” Mr. Moses Gabriel one of the survivors that lived in the bungalow next to the three-story building lamented. “Three years ago, the government found out it was a distressed structure and unfit for habitation, and then marked it for demolition. but authorities refused to not make any concrete move to come in and pull down the building since. The landlord kept carrying out little renovation and continued collecting rent from tenants.
The building was already marked for demolition three years ago. 

“I managed to escape with my life, but I have lost everything in the disaster. I am begging the state government to come to our aid now. I am confused. And I don’t even know what to do next”, he cried.

Another resident, Mr. Gbenga Kassim lambasted the Lagos state government, saying that that has been ‘very weak’ in effecting laws against this building collapsing. ” I’ve said it. These old houses in Lagos island are death traps. How many more have to collapse before they can do something? That three-story building literally tilting, but the owner kept renting it out, and even people will count money and pay for rent plus the agent fees”.

One of the survivors, Mr. Ibrahim Balogun, who is also the bereaved father of the seven-year-old boy that was killed in the incident narrated to Nigeria Xpress how it all happened, and how he managed to escape. The grief-stricken father, while counting his losses, disclosed that he is still in pains, and heartbroken at the tragedy. He further called on the relevant authorities to come to their aid and ameliorate his grief. “I am still in shock after seeing the body of my son- Abdulsalam, ” he cried. “I lived in the bungalow that was crushed by the three-story. We that lived in the bungalow next to it have always warned about that three-story building but authorities didn’t listen to us”.

On that fateful day, “we were all asleep in our house when I suddenly heard rumblings and shouting at number 18 Freeman street. I was trying to get Abdulsalam, for us to escape. That was when the three-story collapsed and crushed our house. I fell on top of an electric wire, I was electrocuted, and was on the verge of dying. I was covered up in the rumble as I lost consciousness. It was our neighbours that rescued and revived me. But by the time they got to my son out from the debris, he has been crushed to death,” he said.