Wednesday, March 13, 2019 was a gloomy day for Lagos particularly, for the residents at Itafaji. A total of 20 persons reportedly died from the Lagos School Building Collapse. The collapsed four-storey building is said to be holding residential apartments, a shopping complex and a nursery and primary school. These dear souls lost their lives from the crushing weight of the building, leaving many families and onlookers wailing helplessly.
Luckily, about 45 survivors were reported. Most of them were rushed to Lagos Island General Hospital, were they received urgent medical attention, paid for by the Lagos state government. However, the question of everyone’s mind is, why was a building marked for demolition still up and functional? Why isn’t there a routine check for vulnerable buildings in Lagos?
How many more people do we need to lose before tackling poorly constructed buildings in Nigeria?
It’s worth noting that, this isn’t the first time a building would collapse killing innocent victims. That same week on Friday, March 15, a building collapsed in Ibadan, Oyo State. Thankfully, there were no fatalities.
On December 10, 2016, a church collapsed in Uyo killing over 200 people in the middle of a packed-full Saturday service. On May 2016, a four-storey shopping complex collapsed in Ogun State, leaving many dead. Sadly, this trend of collapsed buildings is fast becoming a norm in Nigeria.
Warning Signs of a Collapsed Building
Several factors could cause a building to collapse like an earthquake or earth tremor, an act of terrorism, flooding, landslides and other natural disasters and the most avoidable – structural failure. Structural failure is arguably one of the primary causes of building collapse in Nigeria, which makes it all the sadder because this can be prevented. The truth is, we can’t depend on the government to guarantee an incident like this doesn’t occur again. We all need to play a part in safeguarding our wellbeing. Here are four warning signs of a building at the verge of collapsing.
- Cracks in the wall
Huge cracks in the walls of a building are an indication of a fall waiting to happen. A crack normally surfaces when the building is unable to accommodate the weight which it’s subjected to. This could be as a result of overloading, faulty construction or design and the use of inferior building materials in constructing the building. Although not all cracks signify an imminent building collapse, it’s important to be on the lookout for buildings with major cracks in its walls.
- Dilapidated Buildings
A dilapidated building is a building whose physical life has expired, i.e., the building becomes unfit for use due to natural decay or the lack of proper maintenance. The Lagos school collapsed building could be best described as a dilapidated building. A local resident reported that the building had been marked for demolition since last year but the officials who had marked the building failed to show up again. So, people went on occupying a building that was essentially expired. Sadly, there are many dilapidated buildings around Nigeria which are old, never been maintained and fully operational. If you notice the property you live or work in is poorly maintained or revealing signs of natural decay, it’s best to move out or avoid the property.
- Structural Dampness
Structural dampness is the retention of unwanted moisture in the structure of a building. This is either due to moisture penetration from outside or condensation from within the structure. Changes in climatic conditions- high level of humidity – is the prime reason for damp problems in buildings. Typically, buildings are required to be constructed to resist dampness and moisture penetration but, it is not always the case.
You can tell a building is damp if you notice damps walls, causing the palter and paint to deteriorate; stains from water on the walls; formation of mould; leaky roofs. Dampness doesn’t only cause secondary damage to a building, it can also have health effects on the residents. You’d likely notice these signs during the rainy season, look out for them.
- Bad foundation
The foundation is the most fundamental part of a building. A building is as strong as its foundation so when the foundation is faulty, the building should be red-flagged. Here are visible signs of a bad foundation:
- Foundation cracks, wall/floor cracks
- Gaps around window frames or exterior doors
- Uneven or saggy floors
- Doors that don’t open and close properly
- A foundation slab that has moved upwards or appears to be sinking
- Water intrusion and retention.
If you notice any of these signs, it might be an indication of a faulty foundation.
To conclude, we spend more time in buildings than we do outdoors. While it could become routine to hop in and out of a building, we need to put more efforts into investigating the nature of structure we dwell in or send our kids to.