LAGOS, Nigeria — Officials in Nigeria on Friday began demolishing unstable structures on Lagos Island near the site of a deadly building collapse, displacing residents who had little warning that their homes would be destroyed.
The sound of sledgehammers rang out as construction crews fanned out across the area to begin the slow process of tearing down buildings — some marked with a giant “X,” indicating that they were unstable. About 100 structures were to be destroyed, officials said, and scores of people were living in them.
Lagos, the most populous city on the African continent, is known for its poor urban planning, and many Lagos Island residents said they believed they had little choice but to live in the buildings — even those that were visibly listing and scheduled for demolition.
The demolition begun two days after the collapse of a three-story building housing a preschool, nursery school, apartments and shops. On Friday, a health official told Reuters that 20 people had been killed and dozens more injured. Many of the dead were children.
The building that collapsed was set for demolition, but a landlord rented out the space anyway, renovating and painting the structure. Neighbors said the work was shoddy.
The collapse and ensuing rescue efforts caused outrage among residents and rights groups, which argued that the government had created hazards by letting many structures on the crowded island stand for far too long. But the new demolitions also created problems.
Officials warned residents of one building on Thursday afternoon that they had given the landlord 24 hours to meet with them to discuss the structure. Two hours before the deadline was up, the demolition began.
“My two children live here with my husband. We need help,” said Bola Salau, who owns a market stall in the building and had already paid nonrefundable rent through August. “What am I going to do now? We have nowhere to stay.”
Lagos officials have demolished entire neighborhoods in the past with little warning and little regard for residents’ well-being. On Friday, tenants of some buildings came home to find that demolition had already begun.
“I didn’t know anything,” said Kehinde Balogun, who arrived at noon to find a giant hole in the outside wall of her home. “I have 10 children. Where will I sleep? Where will I eat?”
She started sobbing.
“They didn’t tell us anything before,” she said. “They told us the building was strong and safe.”