Thursday, September 18, 2014

Update on Prophet T.B Joshua's Synagogue Tragedy: Church refuse to release names of victims, death toll hits 80

Six days after a five-storey building used as guest house by the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN collapsed, killing scores of persons and injuring several others, the church is yet to produce names of lodgers in the building.

Meanwhile South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday claimed that 67 South African nationals perished in the collapsed building which attracts thousands of pilgrims from other countries.

But rescue operators are faced with the challenge of identifying the nationalities of the dead and survivors, owing to what they alleged as reluctance from SCOAN to produce the names of lodgers.

This is as the death toll rose to 80 yesterday with the recovery of additional 17 victims comprising 12 women and five men, with the number of survivors still 131. Emergency workers said there was a high possibility of recovering more corpses since the excavation work had gotten to the ground floor, which was believed to accommodate more people than the top floors.

Fielding questions from newsmen on the contradiction in the number of death between rescue operators and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, the South West spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA Ibrahim Farinloye, maintained that as at Tuesday, when Zuma came up with his figure, the death toll was 63.

Farinloye said, "I don't know where President Zuma got his information from. He is not on ground here but we are. So, we presume he is operating based on  information made available to him. We are working on what we got based on operation. As I speak, we have record of 80 persons dead and 131 rescued alive. The figure rose to 80 because we recovered two bodies by 11pm on Tuesday and another two at about 3am today (Wednesday) and the rest between 10am and 4pm. We will continue working until we get to the last level of excavation because it is possible that more bodies are still trapped underneath the rubble."

Meanwhile, the South Africans yesterday began to claim their dead, but it was not yet clear if the Australian Embassy was successful in its quest to identify some of its nationals who were said to have lodged at the guest house.

Also, Lagos State Government yesterday said it has no plan to seal the site of the collapsed guesthouse of the Synagogue Church, until thorough and detailed investigation as to the cause(s) of the collapse had been concluded.

This was contained in statement issued yesterday by the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, who stressed that, "Government does not arbitrarily take over properties when investigation is still on-going."

He however, reiterated the position of the ministry, "that the six- floor guesthouse of the Synagogue Church for All Nations that collapsed at Ikotun-Egbe, a Lagos suburb did not have building approval."

The government, he said was "conducting a preliminary investigation into the cause(s) of the collapse and would leave no stone unturned and if there is any violation of relevant planning law, residents are assured that government would take appropriate action."

According to him, a team of engineers from the ministry and other state government agencies "are taking samples from the foundation and materials from the wreckage of the building for detailed analysis and testing to ascertain the structural integrity of the building."

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