Still unclear how many South Africans hurt in Nigeria church collapse

2014-09-17 08:28

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It was not yet known how many South Africans were injured in the building collapse in Nigeria that killed 67 citizens.

The Star newspaper reported that more than 300 South Africans had been staying at the Synagogue Church of All Nations, which collapsed on Friday.

“We will provide more information once it becomes available,” the department of international relations spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, said this morning.

He said the only the information available at the moment was the information released by President Jacob Zuma last night.

At least five South African church tour groups were believed to have been staying at the church of faith healer TB Joshua at the time of the collapse, news reports said today.

Yesterday evening, Monyela posted a tweet on social networking site Twitter saying: “Our team in Nigeria [is] not getting the cooperation they need. Verification [is] very difficult. As [Mac] Maharaj said, ‘take [the] figure of 67 with caution’.”

Zuma’s spokesperson Maharaj was quoted on the radio station PowerFM yesterday evening as saying the numbers should be taken with caution because it was still too early to confirm.

He said those with concerns about missing family members should call the operations centre on 012 351 1000.

Zuma said 67 South Africans had died when the multi-storey guesthouse belonging to the church collapsed on Friday.

“This is a particularly difficult time for South Africa. Not in the recent history of our country have we had this large number of our people die in one incident outside the country,” said Zuma.

“Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues that have lost their loved ones in this heartbreaking tragedy.

“The whole nation shares the pain of the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who have lost their loved ones. We are all in grief,” he said.

Monyela was unable to immediately confirm when the identities of those killed would be made public.

Zuma said he had directed various government departments to ensure that relatives of the deceased were taken to Nigeria to identify their loved one’s bodies.

The government wanted to ensure that the bodies were repatriated as soon as possible.

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