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Nigeria collapse: Emotions run high as SA survivors return home

A total of 26 South Africans survived the collapse at a guesthouse run by charismatic preacher TB Joshua.

Survivors of the Lagos building collapse arrive at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on 22 September, 2014. Picture: Barry Bateman/EWN.

PRETORIA - There have been tears of joy at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria where more than a dozen ambulances have dropped off 25 South Africans who were injured in the deadly Lagos building collapse.

A total of 26 South Africans survived the collapse at a guesthouse run by charismatic preacher TB Joshua.

The building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed on 12 September, killing 115 people, including 84 South Africans.

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.

Twenty five people were flown back home this morning and touched down at the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria.

One man insisted he remain behind and return to the church.

Family members have now gathered at the hospital hoping to see their loved ones.

Ivy Langford, who had spent two days trapped under the rubble of the collapsed church, waved to her family as she arrived at the hospital.

Her son, Clint said he was overwhelmed.

"She's alive and I can't describe the emotions going through me right now."

Meanwhile, details have emerged about the extent of the injuries suffered by the victims of the collapse.

Government says one South African survivor has developed gangrene and doctors are in the process of amputating his toes.

The legs of three other survivors were amputated in Nigeria.

Radebe said a man who developed gangrene was the first patient to be rushed from the airport to the hospital this morning.

He said some patients also have minor injuries.

"Other have fractured ribs and another is in kidney failure and is on dialysis."

All patients will have to undergo tests and be cleared before they can join their families.

IVY LANGFORD'S FAMILY RELIEVED

The family of a woman who was trapped for two and a half days beneath the rubble say they're relieved to finally see her alive after 10 days of panic, confusion and worry.

Her niece says she's happy to see her aunt alive.

"Under the circumstances, she looks extremely well, praise God."

She says the family feared that Langford may have lost her arm in the disaster.

"We heard that people lost limbs and she was complaining about her arm. It was trapped under two concrete rocks.

BODIES TO BE REPATRIATED

Radebe said government will ensure the bodies of those who died are repatriated as soon as possible so they can be given dignified burials.

The minister described today's efforts to bring back home the South African survivors as a major milestone.

"This evacuation is the biggest since the dawn of democracy."

The grey chartered C130 was initially scheduled to touch down at the Swartkop Air Force Base at 7am but the flight was delayed by almost four hours due to a shortage of ambulances in Nigeria last night.

At the same time, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan visited the site of the collapse on Saturday, offering his condolences to Joshua, who has been the focus of anger among the South African public after he described the victims as "martyrs of faith" on his Facebook page.

Joshua and his supporters say the collapse was an "attack" somehow linked to a mysterious aircraft they say flew over the building before it fell down.

Analysts say Nigeria's church leaders are so influential that few politicians dare upset them, especially just before a national election, which Nigeria is due to hold in five months.

He did not mention the efforts of Nigerian emergency services or the church but said Nigeria was carrying out an investigation, although Jonathan has not announced any probe.