Death toll rises to 23 in Nigerian building site collapse

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The death toll from the collapse of a high-rise apartment building under construction in Nigeria’s most populous city has risen to 23 with two more bodies recovered Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

Nine people had been rescued by Tuesday, but no new survivors were found Wednesday. Segun Akande of the Nigerian Red Cross told The Associated Press that rescue efforts continue, but said there seemed to be little hope for those trapped in the heap of debris.

“The chances are very slim; very, very slim,” he said when asked about those still trapped.

Lagos Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said it was unclear how long the rescue mission would continue.

“There is no pillar in any form that is holding anything,” he said of the building’s remains. “Hope is what is in short supply,” he told families. “Hope is what we all require now.”

It’s unknown how many people could still be trapped inside the debris, but one construction worker at the scene had estimated there were about 100, leaving potentially 70 unaccounted for.

The 21-story luxury apartment building under construction toppled Monday and it took several hours for officials to launch the rescue effort. Authorities have arrested the property’s owner, according to media reports, saying that his building permit only allowed for a 15-story structure.

By the entrance of the compound, help desks were set up for people to provide names and photos of their relatives or friends who they believed were working there when the structure crumbled.

There was also a help desk for counselling and support of distraught relatives, many of whom were lined up by the roadside.

Abel Godwin traveled 722 kilometers (448 miles) from the nation’s capital, Abuja, in search of his 18-year-old son who had been employed at the site.

After arriving in Lagos at 2 a.m., he visited the government hospital where victims are being treated.

“They couldn’t allow me to check whether my son is alive or dead,” he lamented.

Dozens of family members have expressed anger and frustration over their inability to know the fate of their relatives.

The Lagos state government has set up an independent panel to determine the cause of the accident and whether the project developers had fully complied with building laws. The panel also is to examine whether there were any lapses by state regulators in overseeing the project.

“People are indeed upset, people are angry. I can assure you we are doing everything,” the governor said.

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