South Africa sends team as Synagogue death toll hits 80

2014-09-18
THE NATION Newspaper- Prescious Igbonwelundu

Eighty bodies have been retrieved from the rubble of the collapsed Synagogue Church guest house in Lagos – as at 6p.m. yesterday.

The death toll rose from 63 announced by emergency workers on Tuesday.

More bodies are still believed to be trapped in the wreckage as South African President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday that 67 nationals died in the tragedy.

South Africa has sent a 10-man team to assist in the recovery of bodies at the site.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said: “As per the instruction of our President Jacob Zuma, government has activated here at home a disaster management process and is treating the matter with the utmost urgency it deserves.

“Government understands fully the anguish and pain of the affected families and we are walking this difficult and painful (journey) hand in hand with the families.”

The government of Lagos State has launched a probe into how the six-storey edifice crumbled last Friday.

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Southwest spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye said yesterday that 131 injured people had been taken out of the site.

Among the bodies retrieved were those of three white people – they are believed to be among the South Africans.

Farinloye said the search-and-rescue might be concluded today.

He said NEMA demanded severally for data on the possible number of people in the building but the church insisted it had none.

“We do not have the identities of the victims yet. What we have is what we are releasing,” Farinloye said, adding:

“The church has not given us the possible number of occupants. We have asked severally, even before we commenced operation and we were told they do not have.

“At the moment, we are facing the emergency phase, after which we will go into detailed investigation to know the identities of affected persons. So, we do not have such records.”

The NEMA spokesman said it was not out of place for the church not to have records of people on the premises.

On whether he had met with the church following President Zuma’s claims, he said: “I met with the church officials this morning and it was agreed that after the emergency phase, other things will be done.

“We have asked from day one about data; but we were not given. Ordinarily, you cannot start rescue operation without basic information, like the total figure.

“Aside that, you have to know locations where people are possibly trapped. That is why we initially went to ground zero where we got about 80 per cent of the survivors.

“The church did not give us figures. They did not have figures as at the time it happened. They just suspected which areas people could be trapped and told us.

“The building is used for multi-purpose; resturant, grocery shop and residential. So, you cannot blame them for not having the correct fugures at the time of the incident.

“When something of this magnitude happens, they will be traumatised. For the fact that they have not experienced this type of thing before, they would not know how to go about it. That is why NEMA has decided to train organisations on disaster preparedness so that they can have emergency marshals.

On the mystery woman who walked out of the rubble three days after the incident, Farinloye said: “Her identity and other details are not our concern now. Most of the survivors have been discharged from the hospitals while others are still being treated, especially those with serious issues.

“The police are in charge of the bodies. Australia, South Africa and other individuals have been calling to make enquiry about their people and we have been connecting them with the church.”

Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, said until detailed investigation is concluded on the cause of the collapse of the building, government would not take over the land – as required by the law.

He reiterated that the government did not grant any approval for the building, adding that a team of engineers from the ministry and other agencies were taking samples from the foundation and materials from the wreckage for analysis and testing to ascertain the structural integrity of the building.

On the veracity of the “strange plane”, alleged to have dangerously flown low over the building 15 minutes before the collapse, the ministry had submitted the video clips provided by the church to the aviation agency with the coordinate of the collapsed site for investigation and professional comment.

 

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