Forty-two people have now died as a result of a building collapse at the megachurch of one of Nigeria’s most famous preachers and televangelists, the country’s main rescue body said on Sunday.
Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said 42 people were killed in Friday’s incident, while 130 escaped or were pulled out alive from the rubble of the building, believed to be a guesthouse for foreign followers of TB Joshua’s The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), in the Ikotun area of Lagos.
The two-storey building, located in the sprawling compound of the vast church complex, came down on Friday afternoon. It was undergoing construction work to add extra floors.
TB Joshua, dubbed “The Prophet”, has an almost fanatical following among Nigerians and across the world, attracted by his purported healing powers and prophecies.
Joshua preaches to massive crowds at his megachurch in Ikotun every week and, according to his website, SCOAN “hosts thousands of national and international visitors” each year.
“People travel from around the world to witness and receive from the mighty work that God is doing in the life of Prophet TB Joshua,” it states.
Joshua said on his Facebook page TB Joshua Ministries that reports that the church auditorium had collapsed and that there had been heavy casualties were not correct.
“The few people that were there are being rescued,” he said on Friday.
Joshua was widely quoted in Nigeria’s media on Sunday as saying that a low-flying plane that had been repeatedly circling the building may have been responsible for the collapse.
In the security camera footage, apparently from opposite the vast church compound, what is described as an aircraft is seen over the building four times at 11:30 am (1030 GMT), 11:43 am, 11:45 and 11:54 am.
The uncompleted building, five floors of which are visible above a high wall, is then seen to collapse at 12:44 pm, throwing up huge clouds of dust into the air.
“After the incident, the strange aircraft does not return,” a commentary accompanying the images adds.
There was no independent verification of the authenticity of the footage but Joshua has said he would make it available to Nigeria’s security agencies.
NEMA’s southwest coordinator Ibrahim Farinloye rejected claims of sabotage and said extra floors were being added to the building without changing the foundations.
“If it were an act of terrorism or sabotage, it would have gone into rubble,” he told AFP at the scene.
Building collapses are common in Nigeria because of the use of sub-standard material and flouting of construction regulations.
NEMA rescue workers were only able to access the site properly at 9:00 am on Sunday and the emergency services and media had previously complained of being attacked by church security.
The Lagos State building control agency also complained that its officials were obstructed and Farinloye indicated more lives could have been saved had rescuers been able to get to the building sooner.
Rescuers wearing protective facemasks and boots used excavators to remove slabs of flattened concrete and were hunting for anyone still trapped under the wreckage of twisted metal and masonry.
Source News Express