It was an emotion-laden sight, yesterday, in Okpanam, Oshimili North Local Council of Delta State, as residents sympathised with families of the victims over the death of their loved ones after a collapsed building.
The one-storey building collapsed on Tuesday evening, while over 150 worshippers of the Salvation Ministry Church in Okpanam, near Asaba, were waiting inside to take Holy Communion. Four people were killed in the incident.
The sympathisers, who were shocked at the turns of events, alleged that the collapsed building was marked for demolition in 2016, and questioned why the demolition order was not carried out.
They, however, called on the Delta State government to take proactive measures to avoid the future occurrence and save innocent citizens from needless death.
There were also speculations over the number of casualties following a large number of worshippers during the unfortunate incident.
But, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Delta State Command, DSP Bright Edafe, in a statement yesterday, confirmed the death of four persons out of the 18 victims, while 11 injured people were receiving treatment at Federal Medical Centre (FMC) and other undisclosed hospitals.
According to DSP Edafe, four have been discharged, three deaths recorded at the scene, which includes two female children and one woman.
He stressed that their names are unknown for now and debunked rumours making the rounds that 10 people died in the incident.
Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee, FMC, Asaba, Dr. Emmanuel Ezunu told The Guardian that one of the seven victims admitted in the hospital died, he died immediately, he was brought in and was taken to the morgue.
Dr. Ezunu explained that three of the victims, who were attended to, were discharged almost immediately they were brought in. He said: “ I have personally gone round to see them and do the needful to save their lives.”
He gave names of the discharged victims, who were all children, as Morph, three years, Sunshine, five years and Sophia, eight years.
At the FMC, Asaba, one of the pastors prevented a victim of the collapsed building from granting an interview to The Guardian, despite the intervention of the hospital assistant public relations officer.
The Guardian gathered that the building was owned by a businessman, who later sold it off. As a result of the transfer of ownership, other occupants had to vacate when the new owner started mounting pressure on them over a planned renovation.
The new owner, in a desperate bid to convert the building for maximum economic gain, started reconstruction work without consideration for standards.
It was alleged that the contractor was on-site working, while over 150 worshippers of the Salvation Ministry were waiting to take Holy Communion inside the building.
The Guardian learnt that the site engineer ran away when the building caved in, leaving his car behind.
MEANWHILE, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has constituted a panel of Inquiry to determine the cause of the collapsed building.
According to a statement, signed by Secretary of the State Government (SSG), Patrick Ukah, the state also suspended processing and/or approval of building plans for Core Area ll, until the panel of inquiry concludes its work.
The panel has Dr. Helen Anazia, as Chairperson with the following members: S. A. Aghagba, Director, Ministry of Works, Rex Orhe, Deputy-Director, Ministry of Works, Orerhime Iduseri, Ministry of Housing, Isichei Felix Ekene, Ministry of Housing and Barr. Moses Agwere, Assistant Director in the Ministry of Justice.
The Assistant Director, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Barr. Igho Eduvie, the statement added, will serve as the Secretary of the panel, which has two weeks for its assignment.
“The panel has the following terms of reference; to inquire into and report on events surrounding the collapse of the building, including the number and identity of the deceased and the injured in the building, the immediate and remote causes of the collapse, the scope and adequacy of current legislation, regulations, policies, and processes concerning the safety of buildings for public use, whether such legislation, regulations, policies and processes were complied within the case of the affected building and identify any person or institution culpable in that regard, the scope and adequacy of current legislation, regulations, policies and processes concerning the emergency management response to the collapse of the building.
“The panel is also to make recommendations for any measures necessary or desirable to prevent or minimise the collapse of buildings in Delta State; and any other matters arising out of, or relating to, the foregoing that come to the Panel’s notice during its inquiries,” the statement added.
ALSO, Deputy Governor Deacon Kingsley Otuaro has visited survivors of the failed facility, who were receiving treatment at the Asaba Specialist Hospital, Asaba.
Deacon Otuaro, who had earlier visited the scene of the collapsed building, assured Deltans that the report of the panel would be made public when it finally comes out.
The senior Pastor of the collapsed Church, David Ibiyeomie, who visited the victims, said the church is working with relevant authorities in investigating the causes of the incident, stressing, “our immediate thoughts and prayers are with the persons and families affected by the incident.”