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Uyo church collapse leaves over 50 dead

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More than 50 people died when a church roof collapsed on worshippers in southeastern Nigeria on Saturday but fears mounted of a significantly higher toll as rescue operations continued Sunday.

“We have recorded over 50 deaths from the incident,” a nurse at the Ibom Specialist Hospital who asked not to be identified told AFP by telephone.

There was no definitive toll available yet on the accident in the extremely remote town of Uyo.

“I cannot confirm the number of casualties since rescue operations are still ongoing,” said Akwa Ibom state police spokeswoman Nwawe.

“Security operatives have been drafted to maintain law and order at the scene and prevent hoodlums from cashing in on the situation,” she added.

Rescue workers were combing the rubble for survivors on Sunday after the president said the accident caused “many deaths and injury” and state media said up to 200 people may have been killed.

The evangelical Reigners Bible Ministry in Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom state, was packed when the roof — which was still under construction — collapsed on the congregation late Saturday morning.

But Nigerian News Agency said “between 50 and 200” people could have died.

It “was about 11 am and 30 minutes into the programme. Suddenly, the roof from the middle fell on worshippers. The governor was quickly rescued. But others were not that lucky,” a survivor told local media from his Ibom Specialist Hospital bed.

The governor of Akwa Ibom state, Emmanuel Udom, called for two days of mourning, saying on his Facebook page that “we have never had such a shocking incident in the history of our dear state.”

“Rescue team members are doing their best to rescue all the victims trapped at the collapsed building,” said Akwa Ibom State police spokeswoman Cordelia Nwawe.

President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his condolences, expressing “the deep sorrow of his family, the government and the entire people of Nigeria over the many deaths and injury recorded following the incident,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.

In September 2014, 116 people including 84 South Africans, were killed in Lagos in the collapse of a church belonging to the famous televangelist TB Joshua.

The inquest verdict attributed the collapse of the six-storey guesthouse to structural failures and said it did not have planning permission. But the criminal negligence trial of the preacher has still not taken place.

Nigeria is said by Gallup International to be the world’s second most religious country.

The Mountain Of Fire and Miracles Ministry, one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, has one of the largest church auditoriums in the world with a seating capacity of 500,000.



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