ABUJA – Nigerian police say a church collapsed in southern Delta State, killing at least three people, including two children. Nigeria’s building standards have been in the spotlight since November, when a 21-story building collapsed in Lagos, killing 45 people.
Rescue operations by the police and emergency responders continued overnight at the site of the Salvation Ministries church in Asaba, the capital of Nigeria’s southern Delta State.
Many worshippers had converged for an evening service at the church on Tuesday when the one-story building came crashing down.
Police officials say 18 people were rescued from the scene and hospitalized, and that three of the victims were in critical condition.
Hours later on Wednesday, authorities said those three people had died.
Authorities say the search for survivors continues. Patrick Ukah is secretary to the Delta State government.
‘All the various agencies, the police are here,’ he said. ‘We have all the complements of the government that is here. Ministry of Works was able to move in with the payloader and the escalators.’
Delta State authorities on Wednesday launched an investigation into what caused the collapse.
Building collapses are not uncommon in Nigeria. Hundreds of buildings have collapsed in the country over the last decade, according to experts.
In November, a 21-story building collapsed in Lagos, killing at least 45 people – the deadliest incident in recent years.
The incident ignited fresh concerns over building standards in the country, where building experts blame authorities for weak implementation of regulations.
Festus Adebayo, a building advocate, says authorities have been slow to act.
‘How many people have been sent to jail for building collapse? We just make our noise for one week, and after one week, the whole thing will be swept off,’ he said.
Poor design, faulty construction procedures and substandard building materials are all part of the problems behind the building collapses.
In November, Nigerian authorities specifically promised to get tough on builders using substandard materials.
David Majekodunmi, an official with the Nigerian Institute of Architects, says the government must back up its promise with regular testing.
‘There’s supposed to be continuous material testing, in terms of the cube test for the concrete, in terms of the test for the iron rods, in terms of … all the materials should be tested continuously. The government needs to outsource, needs to have certified material-testing laboratories,” he said.
Laboratories for testing building materials in Nigeria are very scarce and expensive.
Experts say until these issues are resolved, many more lives remain at risk.