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Nigeria collapse: More South Africans identified

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe says 62 of the 84 South Africans who died have been identified.

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

JOHANNESBURG - Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe has confirmed 62 of the 84 South Africans killed in the Nigeria building collapse have now been identified.

Radebe held a briefing on the tragedy in Pretoria this afternoon.

He says various methods were being used to identify the bodies.

"Our government appeals to the families and the nation to bear with us as we allow our team in Lagos the necessary time to complete this process of identifying the bodies. It is clear from the information that this is a methodical and time consuming process."

Government says efforts to identify the bodies of the 84 South Africans who died during the Nigerian building collapse have been stepped up as families anxiously wait for the remains to be sent home.

"We will make sure that all deceased persons are repatriated and that the correct body is handed over to the right family."

The identification consist of direct identification, photo identification, fingerprint data base comparison, dental record comparison and DNA sampling.

Government says as soon as the bodies are identified, a team of 70 experts from the South African Military Health Service and the Department of Health will be ready to depart to Lagos with specialised equipment to transport the deceased back to South Africa with the required care and respect.

Almost two weeks after the guest house accommodating pastor TB Joshua's followers collapsed, families have remained in the dark about when they will be able to give their loved ones dignified burials.

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.

Spokesperson Phumla Williams says two South African pathologists are assisting Nigerian authorities' conduct DNA tests and positively identify the deceased.

"The process is now moving fast with the assistance of the Nigerian government."

Government says its priority is to repatriate the correct bodies to prevent any further trauma to grieving families.

MORE INJURED RETURN HOME

At the same time, more South Africans who survived the collapse arrived back home today.

Some have however decided to remain in Lagos, choosing to return to the Synagogue Church of All Nations.

The collapse killed 115 people including 84 South Africans.

Twenty-five of the injured were flown back home on Monday.

They were taken to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital for further treatment and assessment.

But the Health Department says none of the 25 injured South Africans have been discharged from hospital yet.

Of the patients admitted to the hospital, two are still in critical care, two have been transferred to private facilities at the request of their families and four patients have been discharged to the care of their families.

In the meantime, a national task team comprising social development, South African Police Services, Chaplain Services and the Victim Identification Centre has been visiting families of people presumed to have died at the church.

Other teams of social workers are providing psycho-social support to survivors and families of victims at the hospital, OR Tambo International Airport and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation call centre.

Williams says Nigerian authorities are updating the South African inter-ministerial team set up to deal with the tragedy every two hours.

On Tuesday, Mnguni said teams were dispatched to the church of controversial pastor TB Joshua to discuss the return of all South Africans still in the country.

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 guesthouse has been unable to meet, and often spills over into local hotels.

Several African leaders have traveled to Nigeria to meet with Joshua, including former Malawian President Joyce Banda and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.

The 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.