A three-story building collapsed in Nigeria on Wednesday with scores of school children thought to be inside, setting off frantic rescue efforts in the country’s crowded commercial capital. The state governor said 25 were rescued. It was not yet clear how many died.
Associated Press video showed rescuers carrying several dust-covered, stunned-looking children from the rubble, to cheers from hundreds of people who rushed to the scene. But the crowd quieted as others were pulled out and slung over people’s shoulders, unmoving.
The children were hurried through the crowd to ambulances. One man pressed his hands to a passing survivor’s head in blessing.
The effort unfolded in the densely populated neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital and a city of some 20 million people.
It was not immediately clear why the building collapsed. Such collapses are all too common in Nigeria, where new construction often goes up without regulatory oversight.
Some witnesses estimated that as many as 100 children were in the primary school on the building’s top floor.
Hundreds of people stood in narrow streets and on rooftops of rusted, corrugated metal, watching. A yellow excavator scooped at the ruins of rebar and dust. Later it nosed at concrete slabs.
With emotions high, a number of shirtless men jumped in to offer assistance, hacksaws and mallets in hand. Some were barefoot. Some were bare-handed. One held a water bottle in his teeth.
Sani Datti, a spokesman with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, told The Associated Press that officials from the agency and other emergency services were at the site.
“For now we don’t have any word on casualties as we are still busy with rescue work,” he said.
The collapse came as President Muhammadu Buhari, newly elected to a second term, tries to improve groaning, inefficient infrastructure in Africa’s most populous nation.
“Nigeria’s infrastructure is generally less than half the size than in the average sub-Saharan Africa country and only a fraction of that in emerging market economies,” the International Monetary Fund has noted.
“The perceived quality of the infrastructure is low.”
There was no immediate comment from Buhari’s office. Instead, as the rescue work continued, the president’s personal assistant posted on Twitter a photo of a gleaming new terminal at the airport in the capital, Abuja.