Many people including children were feared trapped on Wednesday after a building containing a private school collapsed in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, an emergency agency spokesperson said, as rescue efforts began.
Workers on top of the rubble shovelled debris away as thousands of people swarmed around the site to watch, many of them angry or hysterical, with police, ambulances, Red Cross workers, fire trucks and a forklift in their midst.
The school — on the top levels of a four-storey building — could have had as many as 100 children there at the time of the collapse, officials said.
About two dozen people have been rescued so far, said freelancer Anna Cunningham, reporting from the scene for CBC News.
Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency’s southwest region, said there was no immediate information on any casualties.
“The third floor of the building was housing a private school in the area,” said Farinloye, adding the three-storey building came down at around 10 a.m. local time.
Early in the search, there were cheers as a boy believed to be around 10 years old was pulled alive from the rubble, but the crowd went quiet as another child was freed and did not appear to move.
The building was in the Ita-faji area of Lagos island, the original heart of the lagoon city before it expanded onto the mainland.
Lagos Gov. Akinwuni Ambode visited the site and offered commiserations to bereaved families, but did not say how many had died.
Ambode said the school had been set up illegally and that buildings in the area were undergoing integrity testing.
There were residential apartments below the school, Cunningham reported.
Nigeria is frequently hit by building collapses, with weak enforcement of regulations and poor construction materials often used. In 2016, more than 100 people were killed when a church came down in southeastern Nigeria.
In Lagos that same year, a five-storey building still under construction collapsed, killing at least 30 people.
A floating school built to withstand storms and floods was also brought down in Lagos in 2016, though nobody was reported injured.
This story originally appeared on CBC