Aid workers chased away from Nigeria collapsed church


Gift of the Givers aid workers have been chased away from the scene of a collapsed building in Lagos, Nigeria, and threatened with arrest if they come near the site, the organisation said on Thursday.

"They tried to go to the church, but they were chased away. The authorities there didn't want them to take any information or come near," said Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman.

"It was like a complete lock-out. They say if you go near the church you will be arrested and charged for like sabotage or something."

The two representatives from the organisation told Sooliman it had been difficult to get information as there was no co-operation.

A multi-storey guesthouse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (Scoan) in Lagos collapsed on Friday killing numerous people, including South Africans. President Jacob Zuma said 67 South Africans had been killed.

They were believed to be part of five South African tour groups lodging at the church of faith healer "prophet" TB Joshua.

One South African woman had asked the Gift of the Givers to find her brother who was at Scoan when it collapsed.

"...We requested our representatives in Nigeria to try and trace this family relative and check on the well-being of other fellow South Africans," said Sooliman.

The two representatives found the man in a hospital called Avon Healthcare.

"He was injured, but we don't know what injuries it was. He was told his sister was looking for him and he phoned her."

Before the two could look for other South African survivors they were chased out of the hospital.

Sooliman said the National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) had told its representatives in Nigeria that 131 survivors were pulled from the rubble and provided a different death toll -- that 63 people had died in total, including the South Africans.

However, several news agencies have quoted Nema spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye as saying a total of 70 people had died.

Meanwhile Rescue South Africa, which had been put on standby after the collapse, had not yet been deployed to the west African country.

"It doesn't look like we are going. We haven't heard anything further from foreign affairs [department of international relations]," Rescue SA CEO Ian Scher said.

Source : Sapa

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