Owerri — A man was, in the early hours of yesterday, saved from the cold hand of death as he reportedly stepped out of his room to smoke a stick of cigarette only for the building to collapse, killing an 18-month old girl, Osinachi Nnabue, and four others.
About eight persons were rescued from debris of the three-storey building that collapsed on Fire Service/Mbaise Road in Owerri municipality, even as rescue operation was still on going at the time of filing this report.
Parents of the dead baby girl, Mr. and Mrs. Dominic Nnabue, and one Sunday Uzoho escaped by whiskers and were reportedly rushed to an undisclosed hospital, due to various degrees of injuries sustained.
Vanguard also gathered that some serving members of National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, were among those who survived and said to be receiving medical attention at the Nigeria Police Clinic, Owerri.
A sympathizer, Mr. Nnamdi Iheme, pointing to a man said "This man walked out from his room between 3 and 4am to have a stick of cigarette and only came back to behold that the building he came out from had collapsed. He was the person that actually raised the alarm, which attracted other people", Iheme recounted.
Okochukwu Nnadi, an eyewitness and tricycle operator, said the incident happened around 4 a.m yesterday.
"I came out very early to convey early morning worshipers to church before the building collapsed .
"I was the one who rushed to the police station near the house to alert them on the incident.
"I was shocked to see four people already dead when they were brought out of the place," he said.
The Coordinator of Owerri Operations, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr Evans Ugoh, who confirmed the casualties, said rescue operation was ongoing.
"We have been able to rescue five people while four have been confirmed dead, but we are still on to see if there are others trapped in the building," he said.
Governor Rochas Okorocha, who visited the scene said, "This is very sad. I will take drastic measures to checkmate sub-standard buildings in this state, regardless of who is involved," he said.
He assured that the state government would take care of the medical bills of the victims recuperating in the hospital as he warned against the use of quacks and sub-standard materials in the construction of buildings.
He also reasoned that the non-engagement of qualified engineers and other related professionals, remains the major causes of building collapse in Nigeria; but commended the Commissioner of Police and the Nigerian Red Cross Society for their early intervention.