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Synagogue: 17 confirmed dead, 123 critically injured

* Lagos launches investigation

* T B Joshua alleges terror attack

By Evelyn Usman, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Olayinka Latona and Monsur Olowoopejo
At least 17 yet to be  identified bodies  were, yesterday, recovered from the rubbles of the collapsed six-storey building under construction in Synagogue of All Nations Church, Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos, while 123 victims were rescued.

Among the survivors was said to be a three-year-old girl who reportedly escaped without injury.
In the meantime, Lagos State government said it had  commenced investigation into the immediate and remote cause(s) of the collapse with the aim of preventing future occurrence as well as identifying any violation of the state’s building regulatory law.

The site of the collapsed building at the Synagogue Church, Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos.
The site of the collapsed building at the Synagogue Church, Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos.

Tragedy struck on Friday when the building, under construction at the Pastor T.B. Joshua-led  Synagogue Church of All Nations, collapsed while labourers were working at the site.

Joshua, yesterday, attributed the cause of the building collapse to terror attack, citing a plane that allegedly hovered in the sky around the building before the incident.
The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, who confirmed the number of the dead and the injured, added that  survivors were  receiving treatment in government hospitals.

According to the LASEMA boss, the rescued victims, comprising of  men and women, including young ones, sustained severe injuries and many of them lying critically ill in hospital.

Late yesterday, Osanyintolu said rescue operation was almost completed as the rubbles had been brought to ground zero level, indicating there could be no more bodies trapped in the debris. “We are on top of the situation”.

When asked whether the state government was considering revoking the land title in accordance with the policy on  collapsed building, the LASEMA boss could not give a definite response. He simply said the state government had commenced investigation into the possible cause of the collapsed building for appropriate action to be taken.

One of the workers who escaped from the scene, Mr. Muhammed Idris, told his story. He  said, “I am unable to reach my friend through his phone. He was at the site. I have called him countless number of times but he was yet to answer his call. I would have been at the site but I decided to stay back.”

On why the structure collapsed, he said, “I cannot  say because we do not use substandard building materials.”
Meanwhile, South West Information Officer of  the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, told Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, that the rescue operation was yet to be concluded and “we cannot give actual figure of the number of the persons involved.”

Farinloye said: “The number is increasing every minute. At the moment, we have 17 dead and 123 rescued from the collapsed building. The ongoing rescue operation was done by a combined team from NEMA and the state counterpart, LASEMA, Red Cross and the church members.”

T.B Joshua explains how building collapsed
While addressing journalists, yesterday, in a session in which cameras and all forms of electronic recordings were disallowed, Pastor Joshua  blamed the building collapse on terror attack after the church showed a clip taken from CCTV footage showing events that took place before and after the six-storey building collapsed.

From the footage, a plane was seen hovering in the sky four times-11:30 am, 11:43 am, 11:45 am and 11:54 am- before the building went down without something extraneous triggering it.
After the plane hovered the fourth time in the sky, the structure collapsed at exactly 12:44 pm.

In his explanation after showing the footage, Joshua said the building might have collapsed  as a result of terror  attack, saying, “In few weeks, the truth behind the collapsed building will be revealed. The last time the Boko Haram issue occurred, some journalists and the police were against the church,  but, after some weeks, the truth behind the attack was revealed.”

The site of the collapsed building at the Synagogue Church, Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos.
The site of the collapsed building at the Synagogue Church, Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos.

On why he didn’t address journalists immediately on Friday, the Synagogue of All Nations leader  said, “I do not want to put fear in the mind of Nigerians. We are still battling with the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD. That is why I decided to delay my comment till now.”

He asked journalists present to analyze the CCTV footage and come to their own conclusion as to what might have happened.
Joshua  argued that the building of such solid foundation would not have collapsed in the manner that the six-storey building came down.

He continued, “I was at the mountain, yesterday, where I went to pray. After praying, I slept off. The place is about five minutes drive from here. While there, my members called me to say there was a plane trying to land. I told them not to worry that only a helicopter could  land, but they said they were worried as it was coming too close to the building, that maybe it was taking picture

“The same jet went around Ikotun.  To our surprise, after flying round Ikotun, it now came back on top of this building four times, it’s here they would show you. As we are talking now, there is a surveillance camera in here. We have a role to play, we cannot leave everything to God.”

Attack on NEMA, LASEMA, others
He said that none of his member attacked government officials, saying, “We know the importance of the rescue team and  journalists. The pressmen are the mouth-piece of the public and I have a lot of regard for the media.”

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