A three-storey building under construction along Azikiwe Road, in the commercial city of Aba, Abia State, collapsed on Wednesday morning, killing at least three persons.
Also two persons were rescued from the rubble and rushed to the hospital for treatment.
The incident happened around 5 a.m on Wednesday after torrential rain on Tuesday night.
It was gathered that the deceased and survivors were homeless residents who usually take refuge in the building at night.
While the state government said three persons died, some residents who assisted in the rescue claimed five persons died.
The commissioner for information in the state, John Okiyi Kalu in a statement, said the developer of the building did not have a permit to erect the structure.
He said the state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, has directed the Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) and the Aba South local government area town planning Aauthority to immediately ensure a full and safe demolition of the building.
“The government received with sadness news of the collapse of the three-storey building which was under construction in the early hours of today and the governor immediately directed relevant agencies to the location as well as mobilized earth moving equipment to the site on a search and rescue mission.
“So far, we have three confirmed fatalities and those on site are working to see if there are others trapped in the rubble.”
On the possible cause of the collapse, he stated that investigations are ongoing by the government and security agents, including official of the state police command, fire service, and town planning authorities already at the site.
He said preliminary information indicates that the plan for the building was yet to be approved with on-site evaluations indicating that the materials used to construct the collapsed part of the structure are sub-standard.
Mr Okiyi stated further that security agents are currently on the hunt for the building engineer and developer of the property.
He also informed that most of the building was hurriedly put up during the COVID-19 lockdown period with a view to possibly evade the town planning authorities.
The commissioner warned that the government will not tolerate a repeat of the situation where buildings are indiscriminately erected without proper approval and supervision, and assured that the government will get to the root of the matter and ensure that all those found culpable in this particular instance are prosecuted.
Also, the executive secretary of the Abia South Town Planning Authority, Ahuruonye Okezie, blamed the developer for the collapse of the building.
He disclosed that the developer of the collapsed building did not obtain requisite clearance from the authority before embarking on construction of the building.
Mr Okezie said the last communication his office had with the owner of the property was on May 20, when he was asked to scale down the building.
“You do not build when you have not received approval. The law said the field should not be cleared until approval is given”, Okezie said.
But a building engineer, Madu Ike, blamed the town planning authority and other relevant government agencies for the collapse of the building.
Mr Ike, who visited the scene of the incident, said if town planners in the city were alive to their responsibilities, the construction of the building, which he described as a death trap and a disaster waiting to happen, would not have been allowed to get to the stage it was before collapsing.
He stressed that it had been clear that the building was structurally faulty and set to collapse; which the town planners couldn’t have been ignorant of.
“Any day I passed here, I weep for what we are doing to ourselves. It’s unfortunate that the small rain of yesterday (Tuesday) proved that this disaster is even worse than I thought.
“How can one use substandard materials and expect a miracle? Someone ought to be supervising the job from the government’s angle. But what do you see? Shoddy oversight riddled with corruption (has) led to the loss of these lives that could have been avoided,” he lamented.