Zuma orders departments to help get families to Nigeria after fatal building collapse

2014-09-16 23:39
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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma, after announcing the death of 67 South Africans in the Lagos building collapse, said on Tuesday night that he had ordered government departments to help family members get to Nigeria to identify the bodies of their loved ones and repatriate the remains as soon as possible.

They were among scores of worshippers who died when the guest house on the campus of televangelist TB Joshua collapsed on Friday. Up to a thousand rescue workers have been searching the rubble of the pancaked building since then, AP reported.

Rescue workers early on Tuesday had dug a woman out of the rubble four days after the building had collapsed. She’d walked away with only a slight injury, a government spokesperson said.

"Not in the recent history of our country have we had this large number of our people die in one incident outside the country," Zuma said in a statement to the nation.

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

Officials say at least five South African church tour groups were at the church, known as The Synagogue, at the time of the collapse.

Government spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the church was not giving its co-operation, which made verification very difficult.

Monyela also said that people could phone the Nigerian consulate on 021 351 1000 for any information on the building collapse.

Joshua initially claimed that only a few people were injured and then suggested that a low-flying aircraft was responsible for the collapse.

On Tuesday he tweeted: "Hard times may test me, they cannot destroy me."

Joshua has tried to implicate Islamic extremists in the building collapse, publishing a video purporting to show a mysterious aircraft flying low over the building four times before the disaster. He told a televised service on Sunday that his church has been targeted before by Nigeria's home grown Boko Haram extremist group.

However, Ibrahim Farinloye of the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency said the building appears to have collapsed because of poor construction work.

He said workers were trying to build two additional floors onto an existing four-storey structure without reinforcing the foundations.

The Synagogue, "hid so much information from us, and [this is] the cause of frustration for rescuers", Farinloye said.

The church has attracted people from around the world to experience the evangelical Joshua's preaching, prophecies and faith healing, as well as to get his blessed water that some say has miraculous powers.

Dubbed "The Prophet", Joshua claims to have performed miracles and counts presidents and prime ministers among his flock, giving him considerable political clout.

Some of the South Africans who'd been so see him, were Springboks. "Silent assassin" Ruben Kruger, Wium Basson and Jaco van der Westhuyzen

EFF leader Julius Malema also went to Lagos, saying he was there to visit Joshua to receive blessings for the journey ahead, reported praag.org

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  nigeria  |  west africa  |  nigeria building collapse

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