As pressure continues to mount on the Nigerian government to take more urgent steps to address the scenario of the death of a multitude of followers of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) there are unconfirmed reports that the death toll has increased to 115, with 84 South Africans. These figures were released by the South African government on Monday following the arrival of some of the survivors of the tragedy in the North African nation.
The seven storey building of the residence or reception of the SCOAN, collapsed completely to the ground on Friday the 12th of September in what has come out as one of the worst tragedies on the continent this year. According to church authorities, including the head of the church, T. B. Joshua, the crumbling of the church building, which was caught on camera, was a result of a plane that was seen hovering over the building a few minutes before tragedy struck but soon disappeared immediately after it happened. Mr Joshua has gone as far as to say it was an attempt on his life. However, the rescuers that attended the scene have attributed the tragedy to poor workmanship on the building and mostly on the fact that the Church authorities had added three more floors to a structure that had initially been just for three floors without making attempts to strengthen the foundations of the building.
There were reports in the media that samples of the building and its foundations would be taken away for further investigation. T. B. Joshua, who is usually referred to by his followers as “The Man of God” or “The Prophet” has described those that died in the building collapse as martyrs of faith. Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan has visited that scene of the accident and promised that his government would investigate the incident. There have however, been voices of dissent that have argued that T. B. Joshua is too well connected in government for a thorough and objective investigation to be conducted.
The figures of the dead were announced by South Afric’s Minister in the Presidency, Mr Jeff Radebe who added that, of the dead were seven people of Nigerian nationality. He did not go into detail about the nationality of the other deceased church members. Only one other person who died is said to have been a senior member in Zimbabwe’s opposition political party, MDC. Dr Dickie Ngcobo, a well known doctor from KZN, who founded Ukuphila Wellness Center, was among the casualties.
South Africa, which has, by far the highest casualty rate sent a nineteen member contingent of rescuers and medical experts who, on Monday brought back with them twenty five of the injured and other survivors. According to Minister Radebe, sixteen of the injured are in serious condition, with some having had to have limbs amputated.