Nigeria collapse: SA team en route to Lagos

20 South Africans are being treated in Nigerian hospitals in the wake of the fatal building collapse.

Rescue efforts underway in Lagos, Nigeria where at least 67 South Africans have been killed after the collapse of a building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's High Commissioner to Nigeria Lulu Mnguni says a team will leave for Nigeria tonight to assist with forensic tests to identify whether more citizens died as a result of the collapse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations on Friday.

The advanced team comprising of 10 officials will assist in the search and recovery operation.

Mnguni has confirmed at least 17 people are still unaccounted for.

She said the South African team will be assisting the Nigerian authorities in identifying bodies.

"We'll need fingerprint and DNA experts and other people who can assist in retrieving our people from the rubble."

At the same time, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has revealed 20 South Africans are being treated in Nigerian hospitals in the wake of the fatal building collapse.

The minister has promised to keep South Africans updated as victims are identified.

A South African team already on site will continue searching through the rubble to ensure all those missing are accounted for.

The collapse occurred when three extra stories were being added to the existing two of a guest house of the church compound, where visitors from abroad flock to stay.

In a shock announcement last night, President Jacob Zuma disclosed that 67 South Africans had died in the tragedy.

Led by the charismatic "Prophet" TB Joshua, the Lagos Pentacostal church attracts a global following of Christians who believe Joshua is able to perform miracles including curing the ill and raising the dead from the grave.

The regular influx of visitors from abroad for the church's services, which can last up to a week, creates demand for accommodation that the church's own guest house has been unable to meet, and often spills over into local hotels.

Joshua is under mounting pressure to cooperate with the authorities.

Members of the church have been accused of preventing emergency workers immediate access to the site of the collapsed Nigerian building.

Officials have asked the congregation to remain calm and to allow the officials to do their work.

Several African leaders have travelled to Nigeria to meet with Joshua, including former Malawian President Joyce Banda and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.


Hopes are fading for families of the disaster after a plane arrived at OR Tambo International Airport from Lagos this afternoon carrying no survivors.

A crowd of people gathered at the airport with some waiting to see if their missing loved ones would emerge from behind the sliding doors at the international terminal.

Elizabeth Molebatsi, who was there with the hope that she would see her daughter walk through the big glass doors, said she has a broken heart.

She saod she is frustrated because it's been five days and she still has no clear answers from the South African and Nigerian governments.

"Rescue missions always rush to such events but why not with this one? Why are they waiting for the Nigerian government to give permission first?"

Families are expected to return to the airport tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, local NGO Nigerian Union South Africa has vowed to do all it can to assist families of the victims to travel to the scene of the collapse.

The organisation's Emeka Collins said news of the disaster has sent shockwaves through the Nigerian community in South Africa.

He said some of the victims' families are not in a position to get to the scene on their own and desperately need assistance.

He said families are anxious to identify their loved ones.

"We have a working relationship with the Nigerian consulate and high commission, so we are assisting everywhere we can."