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Owners of Collapsed Building in Nigeria to Face Prosecution


The governor of Nigeria's Lagos state says owners of a four-story apartment building, which collapsed Tuesday, killing at least 20 people, will be prosecuted. Rescue efforts continue nearly 48 hours after the incident, though at a much slower pace.

Rescue workers battled Thursday to reach those still trapped in the wreckage of the collapsed four-story building in Lagos. The leader of the Red Cross team, Umar Maigira, told VOA that rescue efforts have been severely hampered by the withdrawal of equipment belonging to a local construction company.

"Julius Berger withdrew its earth-moving equipment yesterday," Maigira said. "So they are using crude tools as usual. Work is going on but using crude tools; sledge hammers, shovels and diggers, which is what our volunteers and the community have been doing since last night. But they have not succeeded in fishing out anybody from yesterday up till this morning. But they worked throughout the night."

The Red Cross official was certain that there were still survivors trapped underneath the rubble, nearly 48 hours after the building came crashing down.

"We are still expecting people, even those that may be alive under the rubble, so that is why the community and the Red Cross are still trying," Maigira said. "I do not know what the government is going to do today. If they are returning the equipment that will be good for everybody. Because those that are dead have started smelling. So it will be good if we can have the crane to see if we can evacuate the dead."

Experts say many buildings in Nigeria are constructed with substandard materials and regulation is weak. Dozens of people have died in collapsed buildings in Africa's most populous country in the past few years. Bayo Adeola is a structural engineer in Lagos.

"Behind all this is provision of housing. If each person still needs to struggle to build his own house with inadequate money, he hardly can pay for good quality," Adeola said. "If the industry is not well regulated and all sorts of charlatans can be contractors just because you have access to people who are in a position to give you contracts, then we are going to keep on having this issue of collapsed houses."

Red Cross officials say 20 bodies have been pulled out of the wrecked block of apartments and shops where about 100 people lived. At least 50 survivors have been rescued.