By CHIOMA GABRIEL, EVELYN USMAN & YINKA LATONA
TRAGEDY struck yesterday following the collapse of a part of a multiple storey building inside the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, leaving many worshipers dead, while others were critically injured.
The incident at the Lagos based church, reportedly happened at 12: 45 pm.
Vanguard gathered that the structure served as a guest house for foreigners, who troop to the church in search of miracles.
There were different accounts as to how the building located at the New Land area of the church caved in.
It was further gathered that the structure was initially a two storey building before it was converted to a five storey edifice.
Those who were trapped under the debris included foreigners, some kitchen staff and construction workers.
Ambulances were seen at the scene conveying the injured and dead to Igando General Hospital, Primex Hospital Igando and Isolo General Hospital.
Some of the victims were allegedly rejected by some private hospitals, which could not accommodate them because they had many victims, they were taken to the Isolo General Hospital.
Some SCOAN workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity told Vanguard that the severely injured victims had their legs and hands cut off.
At the scene, there was pandemonium, as confused relatives of some of the lodgers were seen asking questions about their whereabouts.
A large crowd of sympathisers thronged the premises of the popular church, leading to traffic gridlock in the area.
Men of the Lagos State Fire Service and Nigeria Police Force , were around to provide emergency services.
Some policemen were hostile to journalists, as a Corporal shot into the air when the crowd queried their hostility to journalists.
A Nigerian Television Authority,NTA, journalist, had his camera seized by a policeman. Some worshipers were heard raining curses on whoever masterminded the incident, as they claimed that it was not a mere building collapse.
There were also claims that the incident happened shortly after a plane was sighted hoovering round SCOAN.
Meanwhile, Lagos State Building and Control Agency, LASBCA, Mrs Abimbola Animashaun yesterday said the state government could not confirm trace of any document stating that the building was approved.
Animashaun who led her team to the scene of the incident said none of the church members could provide evidence of approval for the collapsed building.
According to her, “We have been here challenging them on the building approval but they haven’t said anything convincing. They claimed to have approval but we could not confirm it. They were told to bring the building approval authorised by the state government but none of them could provide it.”
When Saturday Vanguard visited Isolo General Hospital at about 6pm, eight of the rescued victims were sighted at the emergency ward.
About seven others were admitted at the Intensive Care Unit.
When the South-West Spokesperson for National Emergency Agency, NEMA, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye was contacted, he noted that three persons died. But unconfirmed reports put the figure at 15.
Farinloye said: “The collapsed building was a five storey building which was initially a two storey building. The additional three were being constructed when it collapsed.
‘’The church members have been very aggressive and tried attacking emergency responders. Before emergency responders’ arrival, about 15 persons were said to have been rescued. On arrival, we rescued three persons and a child, while three dead bodies were also recovered . Many are said to still be trapped under.”
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, Miss Ngozi Braide, could not give the exact number of casualties.
Braide said: “Officers are already on rescue mission. I can not confirm the number of casualties now as rescue operation is ongoing and the injured have also been taken to the hospital for treatment. Police have condoned off the area in order to prevent any breakdown of law.”
The SCOAN that is famed for signs and wonders had embarked on an expansion drive over the last few months.
The Guardian Newspaper in the United Kingdom,UK, had reported that the SCOAN attracts more weekly attendees than the combined number of visitors to Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London.
At the time of filing this report, many were still trapped under rubble, even as the founder of SCOAN Pastor Temitope Joshua, was yet to make an official statement on the matter.