Nigeria collapse: Death toll climbs

84 South Africans were killed when a guesthouse under construction at the SCOAN collapsed on 12 September.

The plane carrying 25 South Africans, including three children, who were injured in the Lagos building collapse lands at the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria on 22 September, 2014. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

PRETORIA - Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe has confirmed the death toll from the Lagos building collapse has reached 115, of which, 84 are South African.

Radebe also revealed that one injured South African has opted to remain in Nigeria in the wake of the disaster.

The minister has been giving details on the extent of the injuries suffered by 26 South Africans who survived the disaster.

A total of 25 citizens landed at the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria earlier today, 10 days after the church guesthouse, run by charismatic preacher TB Joshua, caved in.

A guesthouse under construction at the Lagos headquarters of the Synagogue Church of All nations collapsed 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.

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.

Radebe said 26 South African survivors were supposed to board the chartered plane in Nigeria yesterday but one man insisted he remain behind and return to the church close to the scene.

Among those who have now safely returned home are three children, two of whom are now orphans.

The minister said government officials are working tirelessly in Nigeria and back home to repatriate the bodies of all South Africans killed in the tragedy.

"We've reached a major milestone in this difficult journey of bringing back the remains of our South African citizens."

He said authorities believe this is the final South African death toll and the last mission now is to ensure the families of the victims can hold dignified burials and receive closure.

VICTIMS TAKEN TO HOSPITAL

The first few injured South Africans have been transported to Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, following a 10-hour flight with medical personnel on board the chartered aircraft.

Patients who were critically injured have been prioritised.

Some were placed on stretchers and loaded into ambulances while two young siblings, who lost both their parents in the collapse, were carried out of the aircraft clutching on to two soldiers.

A team of medical experts, dressed in protective clothing and face masks, helped paramedics carefully offload the injured patients.