Minister: Announcing Lagos deaths not delayed

2014-09-17 19:40
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Picture: Sapa)

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (Picture: Sapa)

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Pretoria - The government did not take long to announce the deaths of South Africans in the Nigeria church building collapse, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Wednesday.

"It did not take long. I am saying to you we started getting information from the time the building started collapsing," she told reporters in Cape Town.

"This is a synagogue so the need to tread carefully and not disturb the ambiance of praying people is one thing. The next thing is that you don't rush to announce deaths when you have not communicated with the families."

A multi-storey guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed on Friday, killing dozens of people. On Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma put the South African death toll at 67. Local residents were believed to have been part of at least five South African tour groups lodging at the church.

Agencies reported that over 100 survivors had been rescued. The number of injured people was not yet known.

Zuma said he directed various government departments to ensure relatives of the victims were taken to Lagos to identify bodies and repatriate them. The identities of the deceased had not yet been made public.

On Wednesday, Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters that "the more technical questions" should be asked at a later stage.

"This incident happened in a foreign country. Having said that, we will leave no stone unturned to bring back their loved ones to South Africa," she said.

Informed by an SABC journalist that his family had lost a cousin and did not get satisfactory assistance, Nkoana-Mashabane said people tended to be impatient following disasters.

"One thing is to have an official rushing to tell you something that you don't want to hear or that they are not sure of. When you are affected, you are bound to be impatient," she said.

"It's not an easy matter to deal with. Working together with the synagogue people, difficult as it may be and not easy, I just want to reassure you that we need to work together and do not rush to give information that is not there."

She could not say when the survivors and remains of the deceased would return to South Africa.

An advance team of ten experts leaves South Africa for Lagos on Wednesday evening.

"They will help asserting needs. The team is really going to work on assessments," she said.

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