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Lagos collapse: 17 S.Africans still unaccounted for

SA's High Commissioner in Nigeria says there are 265 SA survivors with 29 still in hospital.

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 - South Africa's High Commissioner in Nigeria Lulu Mnguni says 17 South Africans are still unaccounted for following Friday's building collapse at the Synagogue Church of all Nations in Lagos.

Mnguni says there are 265 South African survivors with 29 still in hospital, including a three-year-old child.

He says a process is still underway to identify the victims with families frantically scouring hospitals and mortuaries, searching for their loved ones.

The National Emergency Management Agency in Nigeria says the death toll stands at 80, while 131 survivors have been pulled from the rubble.

The collapse occurred on Friday when three extra storeys 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 on Tuesday night, President Jacob Zuma disclosed that 67 South Africans had died in the tragedy.

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.

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

TB JOSHUA HIT BY BRIBERY CLAIMS

A local author has described the Synagogue Church of all Nations and "Prophet" TB Joshua as one of Africa's most influential men, who tried to bribe him during an interview.

There are mounting calls for someone to be held responsible for the deaths and all eyes are now on Joshua.

But the charismatic preacher insists the collapse was the result of a planned attack on him.

Jacques Pauw, author of Profit of Doom, an expose on Joshua's church, says the preacher once tried to bribe his entire television crew.

"He obviously realised that it was going to be bad publicity for him and then he handed an envelope full of $100 notes to me and the sound person. We told him we couldn't accept it and he said it was a gift from God."

Video: Families wait for news on church collapse victims.

CHURCH'S ADDITIONAL FLOORS WEREN'T APPROVED

The Lagos State Executive Council says there's no evidence the Synagogue Church of All Nations secured regulatory approval to increase the number of floors on its collapsed building.

The building was initially two storeys high and used by the church as a guesthouse for visitors. It was being raised to five storeys before it collapsed.

Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development Olutoyin Ayinde says samples will be taken from the building's foundation beams today to determine whether the foundation was sound.

Ayinde says civil aviation authorities will today view video footage, to determine whether claims by Joshua that an aircraft had been circling the building shortly before it collapsed are correct.

While investigations are underway, Ayinde says authorities are trying to get the church to cooperate with them.

"We're trying to secure their cooperation, we've had some challenges."

DEATH TOLL RISES

At least 17 bodies were recovered from the rubble on Wednesday to add to the 63 dead bodies removed previously, bringing the total death toll to 80 while rescue operations continue.

National Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Ibrahim Farinloye told Eyewitness News that more bodies are still expected to be removed from the rubble as rescue efforts continue.

The identities and nationalities of the deceased are in the process of being determined.

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma says an inter-ministerial task team will help Nigeria manage the disaster.

Zuma again expressed his condolences to the families of the victims during a local government summit in Midrand earlier today.

The president said the task team will be headed by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and a number of other members from the departments of international relations, home affairs and cooperative governance.

A team, comprising of 10 officials, left for Nigeria last night to assist with forensic tests.

The advanced team will assist in the search and recovery operation.

PUBLIC REACTS WITH ANGER TO STATEMENT

The Nigerian public has reacted angrily to a statement released by the church.

Anger is mounting that no one has been arrested in connection with the incident.

Joshua's church earlier issued a statement hitting back at accusations it refused to cooperate with authorities and emergency crews after Friday's deadly building collapse.

The church says it is working closely with South African and Nigerian governments, emergency services and relief agencies and is following diplomatic protocol.

It has once again mentioned an aircraft flying over the church moments before the collapse, saying that 'God will reveal the perpetrators of this unfortunate tragedy'.

The claim that this may have been a terror attack has been widely dismissed, with the focus remaining on poor or illegal construction.

To read the full statement released by Joshua's church, click here.

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