Church collapse kills more than 100 in Nigeria
Nigeria | The building was recently constructed for a special ordination service
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 12/12/16, 10:22 am
ABUJA, Nigeria – A church building collapsed Saturday in southern Nigeria, killing more than 100 people, residents and witnesses said. Government officials have reported the death toll as lower.
Hundreds gathered at Reigners Bible Church International in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom state, for the ordination of founder Akan Weeks as bishop. Several officials, including state Gov. Udom Emmanuel, attended the event. Weeks and Emmanuel both survived the collapse.
Eno Etim, a 44-year-old woman who attended the event, told Nigeria’s Vanguard the church had just started praise and worship when the building’s red metal girders crashed and the corrugated iron roof caved in. One of the girders knocked her to the floor and left her unconscious.
“That was all I remembered,” Etim said yesterday, as she lay in one of the regional hospitals still receiving treatment. “I still feel pain in my back and body, but I’m grateful to God because I’m not better than those that passed away.”
Ukeme Eyibio, a computer analyst, said he parked his car outside the complex to make a phone call when he heard the deafening crash. He recalled seeing “trapped bodies, parts of bodies, blood all over the place, and people’s handbags and shoes scattered.” Eyibio joined other people to help pull out some of the injured around the main structure and called his boss at Julius Berger construction company to send a crane to help with rescue efforts.
“I could not sleep last night for [fear of] the horrors repeating themselves in my mind,” Eyibio said.
Gary Ubong, an Uyo resident who rushed to the scene after the collapse, told Reuters he saw more than 100 bodies brought out on loaders. Etete Peters, the medical director at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, said he counted 90 bodies moved away from the rubble before he stopped keeping record.
Contrary to reports from witnesses, a state police spokeswoman said 27 people died and 30 others were injured. The National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) on Sunday said only six people died in the collapse while 115 others were injured.
In a broadcast statement, Emmanuel described the collapse as a “shocking incident” in the state’s history. He said the government would bear the medical costs of all the injured.
“We urge the Christian community to show their support, love, and understanding in prayers for the families of the victims and the state,” Emmanuel said.
Emmanuel added the government would set up an inquiry to investigate the people responsible for compromising professional standards in the church’s construction. The church’s members said workers rushed to complete the construction in time for the Saturday consecration service.
Nigeria has faced multiple cases of buildings collapsing, mostly due to construction workers using cheap materials and breaking building regulations. In March, at least 34 people died in a five-story building under construction in Lagos state. The state government said preliminary reports revealed the construction was illegal and defied several regulations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.