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Collapsed building in PortHarcourt:We heard one huge bang, then woke up on hospital bed, says survivor

Posted by By John Ighodaro Port Harcourt on 2005/07/09 | Views: 287 |

Collapsed building in PortHarcourt:We heard one huge bang, then woke up on hospital bed, says survivor


ONE of the very first persons to hear the horrifying sound of crashing concrete walls and tangled rods at the site of the collapsed four-storey building that was under construction in Port Harcourt last weekend was John Nwanmeme.

ONE of the very first persons to hear the horrifying sound of crashing concrete walls and tangled rods at the site of the collapsed four-storey building that was under construction in Port Harcourt last weekend was John Nwanmeme.

Most residents of Port Harcourt did not get to hear of that deadly sound but as seconds turned into minutes and minutes into hours, most inhabitants of the Garden City and indeed people outside the city followed up the goings on at site of the incident with bated breath. And soon, people began to migrate to Forces Avenue, site of the building that collapsed at the Government Reserved Area (GRA) and where no less than ten people were feared to have died.

But for some of the people who heard that initial sound, it was unfortunately their last moments on earth. For others, it heralded a nightmare from which they have been trying to come to reality with. Yet, for others like John Nwanmeme, one of the construction workers, it was the last sound he would hear until he opened his eyes hours later to find himself on a hospital bed at Vita Medical Centre along Nsukka Street in Port Harcourt.

When Saturday Vanguard visited him at Vita Medical Centre, he was a man rescued from the jaws of death. Indeed, he saw death beckoning. As he recollected what happened on that day, he would close his eyes at a point, evidently troubled by the memories of that tragedy. He sustained head injuries.

"We were busy casting the third decking on the four-storey building when all of a sudden I just heard something heavy fall," said John. "That was all I could remember. I later found myself in the hospital".

Nwanmeme continued: "I didnít know that it was the house in which I was standing that fell. I just heard the sound of something heavy falling and I blacked out.

He disclosed that it was when he woke up hours later at the Medical Centre that he realized what had actually happened. While his brother, Emeka Nwanmeme watched, John continued: "This thing happened unexpectedly. Of course, nobody knew such a thing would happen. We just heard a bang and we all came crashing down.

"We were very many that were hired to do that job. I think we were about 45. We were working at night. I was to know that many people died. Thatís to be expected because it was one huge crash. We were just working, then we heard a sound gbuu. Some people shouted and I didnít know it was the house that fell.

"When I heard that some people died, I was not surprised because the impact was too much. I canít even tell you how long it took before I was rescued from the debris because I woke up and found myself in the hospital.

"Itís an experience you donít wish for even your enemy," Nwanmeme continued. "To remain under a collapsed building for five minutes is like hell. Therefore, to come out alive after hours is nothing but a miracle. I thank God for keeping me alive to tell this story."

The victim was more particularly apprehensive of the people who lived on the ground floor. "To fall from a third o fourth floor was a big crash but my worries more are about those living on the ground floor, especially the young girls who always came to sell food. I heard that one or two of them died."

He disclosed that he had no idea of the identity of the owner of the house and could not even remember the name of the contractor that hired him. Hear him: "I donít know the owner, and I canít even remember the name of the contractor."

Today, the lucky survivor wants to be paid compensation. "Yes, I am begging government to please ensure that the owner of the house pays compensation, not only to me but to my fellow victims. As for those that are dead, I plead with government to take care of their families. Thatís the only way to make sure that their wives and children do not suffer."

Nwanmeme, a native of Abia State blames his misfortune on unemployment. He told Saturday Vanguard that he came to Port Harcourt last years in search of a job. And when he could not get the type of job he desired, he had to accept whatever came his way in order not to starve to death.

"I have been engaged in this construction business since I came to Port Harcourt and didnít find any other job. People would hire me alongside other people. We had built many houses but nothing like this had ever happened."

Asked if he had been earning enough money from the work, he replied: "Not much but just enough to get by, hoping that one day, one could get a better job and then this happened".

It was such a nightmarish experience for his family who had been erroneously told that John died in the accident. His brother, Emeka Nwanmeme who sat opposite the collapsed building victim in the hospital narrated to Saturday Vanguard how he heard of the incident.

His words: On Sunday morning, a man who also survived the incident came to my house and asked if I was Johnís brother. I said yes. He asked if I wasnít aware that John had an accident. Accident? I asked him, what accident? I told him that I was aware that John and some people were working on a building somewhere. He said yes, that he also was also involved in the construction of the building when it collapsed and that many people including my brother were dead.

"It was one news item to jolted me. I just didnít know what to do or say. The man began to tell me how he escaped from the debris. He drew my attention to his head and I could see an injury on his head. He said that at the time the building collapsed he was on the ground floor and immediately he heard an unusual sound, he jumped through the window and fell into a gutter and was half buried in the rubble."

Emeka began to make enquiries until he was told that his brother, John, actually survived. "I was directed to this hospital and as I got closer, I was not sure of what I was to meet. I was praying silently to meet my brother alive.

"I was even afraid to ask people of the whereabout of my brother because I didnít want to be told certain things. Finally, I met him alive and I thank God for sparing his life and the lives of other people. As for those who were not so lucky, we pray that God grants their souls eternal rest."

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