Nigeria collapse: More bodies recovered

At least 17 bodies were recovered from the rubble on Wednesday bringing the total death toll to 80.

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/CAPE TOWN - 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 from the collapse of a building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos to 80, while rescue operations continue.

In a shock announcement on Tuesday night, President Jacob Zuma disclosed that 67 South Africans had died as a result of Friday's collapse.

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

"Up to now, emergency management has not estimated or given us any leads of people trapped so we are just working on a plan."

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

At the same time, Zuma says an inter-ministerial task team will help South Africa manage the disaster.

The president again this morning expressed his condolences to the families of the victims at a local government summit in Midrand.

He said the task team established 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.

Zuma has vowed to support the families and do whatever is necessary to manage the impact of this 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.

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.


International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has deflected criticism that government took too long to respond to the disaster.

The minister said there were certain channels that had to be followed before an announcement could be made on the Lagos deaths.

Mashabane was grilled by the media on Wednesday on the reasons for the lengthy delay in communicating the deaths to the nation.

She however said they did everything by the book.

"It did not take long. You don't rush to announce deaths when you have not started communicating with families. It's not done anywhere else."

A South African search and rescue team was deployed to the area on Wednesday evening.

The team comprises of 10 experts, including doctors.


Joshua's church has 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.

The church has sent its 'heart-felt commiserations' to the families of those who have died.

[Click here to read the full statement]