Death toll from Lagos church collapse rises to 62

by Reuters
Tuesday, 16 September 2014 18:54 GMT

LAGOS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The collapse of a guest house under construction at the compound of a popular Lagos Pentecostal church last week killed 62 people, emergency services said on Tuesday.

The building in the compound belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations, headed by "Prophet" T.B. Joshua, collapsed on Friday while three extra stories were being added to its initial two in the Ikotun neighbourhood of Lagos.

Members of the church had at first prevented emergency officials from participating in the rescue, making it difficult to establish a toll for the injured and dead, originally estimated at 41. State rescuers were allowed in on Saturday.

Another 131 people who had been in the building survived, said Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the southwest.

Representatives of the church could not immediately be reached for comment.

T.B. Joshua's church draws thousands of followers from all over West Africa and many other parts of the world, attracted by claims that he and his inner circle have special healing powers, including cures for normally incurable diseases or ailments such as HIV/AIDS, a ruptured spine or chronic kidney disease.

The regular influx of visitors from abroad for church services that 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.

South Africa's Department of International Relations spokesman Nelson Kgwete said in a statement on Monday that "at least five South African church tour groups were at the Synagogue at the time of the collapse," but he said that he did not know how many of his citizens had been hurt. (Reporting by Tim Cocks; Additional reporting by Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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