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Nigeria collapse: Govt works to bring S.Africans home

Govt says its focus is to help survivors and identify and repatriate the bodies of those killed.

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 - Government says it has made provision to ensure the families of the victims of the Nigeria building collapse are able to participate in the identification process.

Government has confirmed that 84 South Africans are now either confirmed dead or unaccounted for, out of a total of 349 who were at the Synagogue Church of All Nations at the time of the tragedy.

It says the focus of its team in Nigeria is to help survivors and identify and repatriate the bodies of those killed.

The collapse occurred when three extra storeys were being added to the existing two of a guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations compound, where visitors from abroad flock to stay.

The inter-ministerial task team set up to deal with the disaster held a meeting in Pretoria earlier on Friday.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said an assessment team deployed to Lagos comprises of medical, forensic, social development and disaster management experts.

The minister said the families of the deceased have been contacted and arrangements made for them to participate in the identification process.

Radebe said meetings are held twice daily to update the inter-ministerial task team on developments on the ground.

He said family members of the deceased have been contacted and arrangements have been put in place for them to assist in identifying the bodies of their loved ones.

The minister said due to the nature and extent of the tragedy, the process of identifying the remains requires meticulous attention to detail.

Among the members of a delegation in Lagos at the collapsed church site is Brigadier Helena Ras, an internationally recognised expert on body identification who has consulted all over the world on disaster management.

Radebe said a team of social workers has also been deployed to OR Tambo International Airport to provide support to families waiting for the return of their loved ones.

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.

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 travelled to Nigeria to meet with spiritual "healer" Joshua, including former Malawian President Joyce Banda and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.

SECOND PHASE OF DATA COLLECTION BEGINS

The second phase of data collation and identification of victims of the building collapse has commenced.

Chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on the Environment, Tobun Abiodun, has blamed officers in-charge of physical planning in the state for the collapse, saying they neglected their duty of monitoring buildings in the state.

At the same time, Ibrahim Farinloye, a spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency told Eyewitness News that details of the data obtained from the victims will be released soon.