Church collapse: Picture of chaos emerges

2014-09-21 10:01
A rescue worker uses a chainsaw in the search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria. (Sunday Alamba, AP)

A rescue worker uses a chainsaw in the search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria. (Sunday Alamba, AP)

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Lagos - A picture of confusion and incompetence has emerged following the tragedy that claimed 86 South African lives after a six-storey guesthouse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (Scoan) in Lagos Nigeria collapsed, reports the Sunday Times.

According to the newspaper, church leader Prophet TB Joshua and Nigerian authorities refused to co-operate fully with rescue attempts following the disaster on Friday 12 September.

Details have now emerged how their lack of co-operation frustrated efforts by South Africa to send in a specialist search and rescue mission.

Relatives and organisations, including the Gift of the Givers, were also barred from searching for survivors. As a result, South Africans lay dying in the rubble, reports the newspaper.

Rescuers lose critical hours

Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesperson for the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency said church officials prevented rescuers from doing their job.

He said rescuers lost the two or three critical hours immediately after the tragedy. This is when most lives are saved.

The newspaper reports that at the same time the South African high commissioner to Lagos, Louis Mnguni, sent a team to the site but was told there were no indications that any South Africans were involved - despite there having been at least 349 on pilgrimage to the church at the time.

By the Saturday, South African diplomats were still hitting a brick wall, even after International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane intervened.  

Only on Tuesday, as the scale of the devastation emerged, was South Africa allowed access to the site. However, a minor diplomatic row erupted after President Jacob Zuma announced at the time that 67 South Africans were dead. Nigeria claimed the nationality of the victims cannot be confirmed.

President visits site of tragedy

Meanwhile, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday visited the collapsed guesthouse, AFP reported, promising to investigate the cause of the tragedy, rescuers said.

He said Jonathan promised to investigate the cause of the 12 September collapse of the guesthouse at Scoan which left scores trapped in the debris.

Farinloye said the death toll now stood at 86 as against the previous figure of 84 after the various emergency teams involved in the operation had reconciled their figures.

"You are aware that several rescue teams at the state and federal levels were involved in the operations. We sat together and reconciled our figures which has now brought the death toll to 86. But those rescued still stands at 131," he said.

Farinloye could not say if the new death toll included 84 South Africans who had been confirmed dead in the incident by the country's high commissioner to Nigeria Lulu Mnguni.

Joshua a ‘Man of God’

It is believed that there were 349 South Africans visiting the popular church in the Ikotun district of the city at the time of the collapse.

The church's leader Joshua, who has blamed the incident on sabotage, is one of Nigeria's most well-known Pentecostal preachers and is referred to by followers across the world as "The Prophet" or "The Man of God", AFP states.

He claims to work miracles, including raising people from the dead and healing the sick, and foreseeing disasters.

The Lagos state government has accused the church of adding extra floors to the existing structure without approval.

It has ordered urgent structural integrity tests on all buildings in the sprawling compound, including the main church, which Joshua says was designed by the Holy Spirit.

Read more on:    tb joshua  |  jacob zuma  |  jonathan  |  goodluck  |  nigeria  |  west africa  |  nigeria building collapse

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