Nigeria collapse: Church members accused of preventing access

Emergency workers and journalists were allegedly not allowed near the scene when they arrived.

Rescue efforts are 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.

LAGOS - Members of the Synagogue Church of all Nations in Lagos have now been accused of preventing emergency workers immediate access to the site of the collapsed Nigerian building in which 67 South Africans were killed.

The collapse occurred on Friday when three extra stories were being added to the existing two of a guest house of the church compound.

Led by the charismatic "Prophet" TB Joshua, the 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.

President Jacob Zuma has described the collapse as a "heart-breaking tragedy".

Reports have now emerged that emergency workers and journalists were not allowed anywhere near the scene when they arrived.

A television crew's camera was smashed by members of the church and emergency officials weren't given access to the building until much later.

If the emergency officials were given access earlier, the death toll wouldn't have been this high.


Relatives of South Africans who were in the building when it came crashing down have voiced their disappointment and anger over the lack of information being offered around the tragedy.

Dozens of people are anxiously waiting for news on their loved ones.

Survivors of the building collapse and other South Africans, who were nearby at the time, have been waiting for news at OR Tambo International Airport.

Palisa Jordan said she first learnt of the collapse last night when Zuma announced the South African casualties.

She said she's still looking for her brother and has not had contact with him in Nigeria since Thursday.

"One would think that if the incident happened last week there should have been some sort of communication from the church and from the government."

At the same time, the brother of a man killed in the building collapse in Nigeria has joined other families in pleading for information on when the bodies will be brought home.

Thomas Matsila's wife returned to South Africa this morning distraught and in tears as she had been waiting for him outside the six-storey wing of the Synagogue Church of all Nations.

The Queenstown based couple had travelled to Nigeria to attend Joshua's service.

Patrick Matsila struggled to express his grief at the international arrivals terminal at OR Tambo International Airport as he waited for his brother's wife.

Matsila said he first heard about the collapse when she called him to let the family know that his brother had died.

He said he's now awaiting the arrival of his brother's body.

"We want to get our brother back so we can prepare for his funeral and we've been getting information from the media but nothing was communicated to the family."

The Department of International Relations has appealed to South Africans with missing relatives to come forward.

The department has established a call centre for people with missing families members and says plans to return the deceased home will be announced soon.

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.

Video: 67 South Africans die in Lagos building collapse.