March 14, 2019 / 11:42 AM / 7 days ago

Families keep vigil at hospital after Nigerian school collapses

LAGOS (Reuters) - Families kept vigil at a hospital on Thursday for children pulled from the wreckage of a collapsed school building in the Nigerian city of Lagos.

People gather outside a cordoned off area at the site of a collapsed building containing a school in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, Nigeria March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Authorities have so far confirmed only that some people were killed, without giving a number, after the four-storey building housing the school, homes and shops collapsed on Wednesday.

Residents say the school had around 100 children. Rescuers were trying to find a register to work out how many had died, an emergency official said. Nearly 50 people were rescued from the building on Wednesday.

At the hospital, 50-year-old hairdresser Arike Kuye waited for news of her granddaughter, aged seven, who has being treated for a head injury. Her 11-year-old granddaughter was killed in the accident.

“I’ve been here for hours. I don’t know how long it has been,” she said, as her eyes filled with tears.

Around two dozen people, mostly women, were gathered outside the wing where hospital officials said seven children were being treated.

At the site of the collapse, people searched through the tangle of rubble and metal on Thursday to find any belongings of their loved ones.

On Wednesday, one person was confirmed dead. More people have died after being taken to hospital, Adesina Tiamiyu, the general manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, told reporters on Thursday.

“We continued our work overnight and at about 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) we recovered the body of an adult male ... and up till now we haven’t recovered anybody (else),” he said.

He said they had been searching to see if anyone else was still buried underneath the wreckage, adding that the hunt for survivors was due to be declared ended later and casualty figures released.

Tiamiyu said the number of children involved was still in question and authorities were trying to find a register of the pupils.

“I want to categorically deny there were more than 100 children,” he said.

Lagos Governor Akinwuni Ambode, who visited the site hours after the building collapsed, said the school had been set up illegally and that buildings in the area had been undergoing structural testing prior to the accident.

Building collapses are frequent in Nigeria, where regulations are poorly enforced and construction materials are often substandard.

Locals, including a relative of a child who was killed, said there had been a number of building collapses in the area over the last few years. They said some buildings deemed by state government officials to be uninhabitable were renovated by landlords seeking rent.

Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram and Angela Ukomadu in Lagos; Additional reporting by Nneka Chile and Afolabi Sotunde; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Alison Williams

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