No hugs for Nigeria church collapse survivors

2014-09-22 18:25
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Nigeria building collapse victims arrive in SA

A plane carrying South Africans injured in a building collapse in Nigeria has arrived at the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria. See the photos.

Pretoria - Families of the 25 South Africans injured in the Nigeria church building collapse were allowed to "meet and greet" them at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on Monday.

"We have asked the doctors to allow you to say hello. We have requested that once they are stabilised the meet and greet must happen," said Deputy Social Development Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu.

"Some of the patients require immediate theatre. You will see them before they go to theatre. We are appealing to the families to work with us."

She said the families were discouraged from kissing and hugging the patients.

"We don’t recommend that for now," she said.

The families were granted around five minutes to see the patients. Private rooms were set aside inside the hospital for the families to consult the patients.

Bogopane-Zulu said the 25 patients were under a 48-hour lockdown.

"Everybody coming out of Lagos is on a 48-hour lockdown. They can’t leave the hospital until the 48 hours are over," she said.

"Irrespective of the injury, all patients are going to be here for 48 hours. You know that there are a lot of airborne diseases in West Africa at this stage. They need to be fully decontaminated."

The hospital’s deputy chief executive Dr Mathabo Mathebula said the patients were being assessed.

"So far they are relatively safe. They are not under strict medical quarantine. The assessment of the patients started when they were in Nigeria."

"Family members will be allowed to just hold their hands. It should not be close contact," she said.

Earlier, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said one of the 26 South Africans injured in the Nigeria church building collapse had opted to stay in that country.

"I must say only 25 boarded the aircraft because one returned to the synagogue yesterday," he told reporters at the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria shortly after the survivors arrived.

"I don't know the specific reasons of the person who returned to the synagogue. When they were being brought back, the person decided to go back."

Around 115 people, among them 84 South Africans, were killed and dozens trapped when the multi-storey guesthouse attached to the Synagogue Church of All Nations, run by Nigerian preacher TB Joshua, collapsed on Friday, 12 September.

About 350 South Africans were thought to be visiting the church in the Ikotun neighbourhood of Lagos when the building came down.

‘The Prophet’

Joshua, one of Nigeria's best-known evangelical preachers referred to by followers across the world as "The Prophet" or "The Man of God", on Sunday pledged to go to South Africa to meet survivors and their families.

Social workers received two South African toddlers orphaned by the collapse when they arrived at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital on Monday. The two were aged 18 months and two years, acting Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said.

Another child, aged 6, was also part of the group of injured South Africans arriving home from Nigeria. Williams said the three children were in good hands.

Shortly after the C130 SA Air Force plane carrying them landed at Swartkop, an initial batch of the patients was whisked off to hospital. Most of the patients were brought out of the plane on stretchers and taken to ambulances.

Department of health spokesperson Joe Maila said there was no suspicion of Ebola among the 25 patients.

"They are only here because of the injuries. We are very conscious of other conditions that may be part of this. As health workers we don’t look at just the injuries," he said." Nobody is under quarantine here."

Visitors arriving from West Africa are screened on arrival in South Africa after more than 2 600 deaths from Ebola in West Africa this year, including eight in Nigeria.

Read more on:    tb joshua  |  nigeria  |  west africa  |  health  |  nigeria building collapse  |  ebola

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