Tony John, Port Harcourt

Death toll at the site of the collapsed seven-storey building in Woji Road GRA Phase 2,  Port Harcourt, Rivers State,  has risen to 17.

So far, 31 persons have been reportedly rescued alive.

Daily Sun gathered that seven bodies were retrieved, on Tuesday, three in the morning and four in the evening.

One was brought out, on Monday, including  nine other lifeless bodies previously recovered from the debris.

The South South Zonal Coordinator of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA),  Ejike Martins-Udeinya,  disclosed this, on Tuesday, while briefing journalists, in Port Harcourt, describing the incident as a peculiar one.

Martins-Udeinya said the peculiarity of the collapsed building has made it difficult for disaster management team to conclude the rescue operations despite the level of equipment deployed in the site.

He,   however, used the opportunity to dismiss reports that NEMA has not done well  in the operation, stressing that the NEMA  was only a  coordinating the operation  and not the main rescue agency in such a disaster case.

“The kind of experience we have in Port Harcourt as it concerns the collapse building we have not had it anywhere else.

“The way the building collapsed makes it very difficult for us to rescue victims, you have to park everything before you would be able to bring out anyone inside either alive or dead.

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“The building just fell down flat. Something must be wrong somewhere.

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“I hear people say NEMA is not doing enough in the rescue operations, that is not true.

“We are not rescue agency, but rather coordinating agency, like as soon as we heard the case of collapsed building, we had to call on sister agency whose major work is on rescue.

“We sent in our equipment, mobilise our men to site. That is why you see operation still going on and we will remain there till everything is done at the site”, he stated.

He complained of lack of manpower in carrying out their operations, which made them to depend mainly on collaboration in any operation.

The rescue operations at the site of the collapsed building in Port Harcourt, which happened late last month, have lasted for 10 days  and is still ongoing.

It was feared that more persons, either dead or alive were still trapped in the debris.