By Egufe Yafugborhi
As rescuers due into the collapsed building in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, yesterday, a relative of one of the trapped victims said his brother, who was earlier calling to be rescued, had suddenly become unreachable.
Chimezie Ihionu, brother of trapped Morgan Ekene Ihionu, a scaffolder supplier to the collapsed building project, also dismissed the state government’s figure of 33 persons rescued so far as “recklessly speculative”.
Chimezie’s concerns came as Suleiman Yakubu, a Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), who is in Rivers on special assignment, updated that four survivors and two dead bodies had been pulled out from the rubbles in yesterday’s rescue operations.
Suleiman said, “There is the need for media restraint on rescued victims, figures. The operation is ongoing and we can’t be distracted by repeated media’s call for figures. Maybe at the end of each day, we can look at some of those concerned but our concentration now is to continue combing the rubbles.”
Agitated Chimezie told Sunday Vanguard, “We were playing snooker nearby when my brother, Ekene, was alerted that the owner of the building had brought money to pay workers and suppliers. Someone called less than five minutes later that the building had collapsed and Ekene was inside.
“We have stayed put at the scene since Friday. Ekene was calling us among others trapped inside. This (Saturday) morning, his phone is no longer reachable. A few lucky persons on the fringe escaped with injuries when the building came down. I don’t know where government got its 24 figure of rescued persons they have been announcing on radio.”
Meanwhile, Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Emma Okah, maintained that “28 persons were rescued yesterday and five today. We have been here coordinating rescue with other relevant stakeholders. I know what I am talking”
In the state government’s loud visibility at the incident’s scene, Deputy Governor Ipalibor Banigo and a state assembly delegation, led by the House Leader, Martin Amaewhule, showed up yesterday.