Nigeria collapse: Search operations winding down

At least 84 citizens died when a building attached to the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed.

Rescue workers clear away mattresses used by occupants of the collapsed guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations at Ikotun in Lagos on 17 September, 2014. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Search and rescue operations at the site of a devastating building collapse in Lagos, Nigeria, in which more than 80 South Africans were killed, are winding down.

Government has confirmed 84 citizens died when a building attached to the Synagogue Church of All Nations came down on 12 September.

The collapse occurred 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.

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.

South Africa's high commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, says forensic experts will help identify the bodies recovered from the rubble.

He says 84 is the final figure and the death toll isn't expected to change.

Meanwhile, the church continues to claim the collapse was caused by some kind of attack.

A Durban woman who survived the tragedy says Joshua gave South African survivors R2,000 each and prayed for them before they returned home.

Questions have been asked about the condition of the building which housed dozens of South African citizens who were on a church trip at the time of the disaster.

Thandi Zwane was hospitalised for three days in Nigeria after she was trapped under the rubble for over 13 hours.

She defended Joshua and said those who blamed the pastor for the collapse were spiritually immature.

Zwane said the preacher is a kind man who gave each South African money food and prayed for them.

She said she will still go back to Nigeria as she believes the collapse was part of God's plan.

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.