Rescue operations at the site of the collapsed building at The Synagogue Church of All Nations, Lagos, have ended with 80 people confirmed dead.
A five-storey building inside the church’s premises at Ikotun collapsed last Friday as three additional floors were being added to the original two-storey structure.
After six days of gruelling search for bodies trapped under the rubble, 131 people were rescued, in addition to the 80 bodies.
Ibrahim Farinloye, South-West Spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, described the rescue operation as “successful.”
“Though we had initial problem in the beginning, everything went well,” Mr. Farinloye Thursday over the phone.
Emergency rescue officials who arrived soon after the building collapsed around noon last Friday were attacked by church members who wanted to deny them access into the church.
Journalists were not also spared the assault as mobile phones and cameras were smashed by overzealous members of the church.
On Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa announced that 67 South Africans perished in the building collapse.
But Mr. Farinloye said that the nationalities of the recovered corpses are yet to be ascertained.
“We have started sorting the bodies already. And until we finish, we can’t say who is from where,” Mr. Farinloye said.
The founder of The Synagogue Church of all Nations, Temitope Balogun Joshua (popularly known as T.B. Joshua), described the tragedy as a hard time that cannot destroy him.
“It is through hard times that you gain the necessary experience and maturity to handle whatever responsibility given you,” Mr. Joshua wrote on the church’s official Facebook page on Tuesday.
“We are most likely to go astray from God and forget him when things are easy with us in the world because we often become proud and stupid with wealth and pleasure.
“God visits His people with hard times that they may learn His way. His ways, though hard to the ungodly men, are desirable and profitable because they lead us to safety unto eternal life,” Mr. Joshua added.
It is still unclear whether the church secured regulatory approval before it embarked on increasing the floors of the collapsed building.
Olutoyin Ayinde, the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, told reporters at the scene on Sunday that though investigation is still on-going, there is no proof that the church obtained a permit to add additional structures to existing ones.
“We have no proof that there is a permit,” he said.
“We’ve asked the engineering team to meet us and for about two hours now no member of the engineering team has come because we also have questions to ask.”