17th September, 2014
The death toll arising from the collapsed 6-storey building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations has hit 70 as at 10:43a.m. on Wednesday, while more dead bodies are still under the debris.
Spokesperson, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Ibrahim Farinloye, confirmed this to P.M.NEWS Wednesday morning, saying that the dead toll is now 70 as rescue operation is still on to remove more victims trapped in the rubble.
“We now have 70 dead and 131 rescued alive. More are likely to be recovered today. We need less distraction to enable us concentrate on the operation to possibly conclude today,” he said.
South Africa alone said it lost 67 citizens to the tragedy, according to its president, Jacob Zuma, even as reports say at least 300 South Africans were at the Synagogue last week when the guest house collapsed.
President Zuma had said on Tuesday that at least 67 South Africans had been killed when the building collapsed while extra floors were being added to the two existing floors.
A spokesman for South Africa’s foreign ministry said on Twitter on Wednesday that the figure of 67 needed to be treated with “caution”. Nigerian emergency services on Tuesday put the total death toll from the accident so far at 62. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
Late on Tuesday Zuma told national broadcaster SABC that an unknown number of South Africans were “not yet accounted for” and that the nation needed to “grieve together.”
Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj told national broadcaster SABC on Wednesday that the government believed that around 300 South Africans from four to five tour groups from the country were visiting the church last Friday but it was not clear how many were on the spot when the tragedy struck.
“It’s a very popular church with South Africans,” he said.
The church, lead by the charismatic “Prophet” T.B. Joshua, attracts a global following of Christians who believe he is able to perform miracles including curing the ill and raising the dead from the grave.
On Tuesday, 14 dead bodies were removed from the rubble, while seven others were removed last night and this morning.
At 2 a.m. also on Tuesday, a 45-year-old woman reportedly walked out of the rubble alive after being trapped for about four days.
The Synagogue tragedy is the worst case of collapsed building in the history of Lagos State, and with the death toll still mounting, there may be little chance of rescuing survivors among those still trapped.
General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu when asked whether the government would confiscate the property of Synagogue due to the collapse, he was very evasive, saying that it was too early to comment on that as saving lives was more important to the government now.
Stakeholders in the built industry have been calling for thorough probe of the Synagogue tragedy, as it was believed that no approval was sought before more floors were added to the collapsed building.