The initial death toll of eight is expected to rise as rescue workers reached the foundation of the three-storey building but did not expect to find more survivors.

Officials say 37 people were rescued since Wednesday when the building collapsed.
Officials say 37 people were rescued since Wednesday when the building collapsed. (AFP)

Nigerian officials on Thursday halted search efforts a day after a school building collapsed in Lagos with an unknown number of children inside. The death toll was eight and could rise; BBC reported at least 10 dead.

As some anguished families protested, National Emergency Management Agency official Ibrahim Farinloye told media that workers had reached the foundation of the collapsed three-storey building and did not expect to find more people.

He declined to give an updated toll of dead and rescued. 

Officials late Wednesday said 37 people had been rescued.

Frantic efforts had gone into the night to find signs of life in the debris.

It was not yet known what caused the collapse of the building containing a school in a crowded neighbourhood at the heart of Nigeria's commercial capital.

Phil Ihaza joins TRT World from the capital Abuja.

Blood and dust

A young man helping rescue efforts who gave his name only as Derin said "at least 10 children" were trapped inside but "thought to be alive".

A reporter at the site saw at least eight people pulled from the wreckage, including a small boy with blood on his face.

Covered in dust, he was alive but unconscious and appeared to be badly hurt.

One resident who witnessed the moment of collapse said there was no warning.

"We were smoking outside when the building just collapsed," Olamide Nuzbah said in pidgin English.

TRT World's Narkwor Kwabla reports.

Distraught parents

As rescuers worked furiously to reach those inside, distraught parents begged them to find their children.

"Please, save my child, save my child!" wept one traumatised mother whose seven-year-old daughter was trapped inside, as people tried to console her.

School bags, toys and clothes could be seen among the piles of rubble as a bulldozer tried to clear a path through some of the wreckage to help the rescue efforts.

Hundreds of locals tried to help, passing water and helmets through to dust-covered rescuers working tirelessly to sift through the rubble, some of whom appeared to be distressed.

Many locals said that the building, which was in an advanced state of disrepair, had been "earmarked" for demolition by the authorities in Lagos state.

"It is a residential building that was actually accommodating an illegal school," said Ambode, the state governor. He confirmed that most buildings in the area had been marked for demolition but said some landlords had defied the move.

"We get resistance from landlords but we must continue to save lives," he said, pledging to step up measures against all structures that failed to meet the correct standards. Ambode said they would be "quickly evacuated" and demolished.

Lagos, which has a population of 20 million people, is made up of a collection of islands.

One of them is Lagos Island, a densely-populated area which is one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods.

It is characterised by its Afro-Brazilian architecture, a style brought over by thousands of freed slaves who headed back home after decades working the plantations in Brazil.

Tragically common

A large number of dilapidated and unsafe abandoned buildings have been taken over by families or businesses, despite efforts to renovate the area.

Building collapses are tragically common in Nigeria, where building regulations are routinely flouted.

In September 2014, 116 people died — 84 of them South Africans — when a six-storey building collapsed in Lagos where a celebrity televangelist was preaching.

An inquiry found it had structural flaws and had been built illegally.

And two years later, at least 60 people were killed when the roof collapsed at a church in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom state, in the east of Nigeria.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies