SA hard at work on Nigeria building collapse – Radebe

2014-09-19 18:10

Victims and relatives of the Nigeria building collapse deserve justice and government hopes an investigation into the cause of the tragedy will do just that, says Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe.

Radebe, who is chairperson of the Inter-ministerial Committee on the tragic deaths, was briefing the media in Pretoria this afternoon where he confirmed that 84 South Africans were still unaccounted for and thought to have perished, warning that this figure could change as efforts to identify the bodies continue.

Asked if the South African government would seek justice against the church for the deaths, Radebe said: “Subject to a thorough investigation and upon the conclusion of it and the outcome, justice must be served”.

Radebe also confirmed reports that emergency rescue services were prevented from accessing the church site where the building collapsed, immediately after the incident.

“We can confirm that indeed teams were prevented from accessing this site initially, but our team is now there working with Nigerian authorities to identify the bodies,” said Radebe.

This comes as Pastor TB Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations suggested that a mysterious aeroplane, which was apparently seen hovering over the seven-storey structure minutes before it collapsed, was responsible.

But reports have also suggested that the building, in which the South African devotees were staying and owned by the charismatic Joshua, collapsed as a result of two additional floors being added to an existing five-storey structure.

It had also been reported that the foundation of the building may have been overburdened.

He would not address questions on whether diplomatic relations between Nigeria and South Africa were under strain, telling reporters to pose this question to Nigerian authorities.

He said the South African government was working “around the clock” with Nigerian counterparts to assist in efforts to identify bodies.

Radebe said the team deployed to Nigeria included international experts in the field of forensic science and disaster management.

Leading the team is Brigadier Helena Rad – head of technology management, criminal records and forensic sciences – an expert on body identification.

“The assessment team is focusing on the following specific areas: body recovery and repatriation, victims listing and confirmation, post-mortems as well as assessing the injured persons to determine the medical condition and the required levels of care,” said Radebe.

He also confirmed that there were 349 South Africans who travelled to Lagos, Nigeria, for Joshua’s church service.

Government said none of the injured nor those who died have reached a South African shores as yet, adding that the department of social development had also dispatched teams of social workers to provide psychological support to the families of the injured and the deceased.

“Due to the nature and extent of the tragedy the process of identifying the mortal remains requires meticulous attention to detail and government is confident that the team assigned to carry out this task has the necessary capacity and skill,” said Radebe before calling for calm and urging all South Africans not to name any of the deceased or injured before they are properly identified.

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