Uyo church collapse: Survivors recount ordeal
Recounting their experiences, some of the survivors, who spoke with The Guardian, described their escape as ‘miraculous’, saying they did not have much to say than to thank God.
During the solemn assembly organised in honour of the departed by the state government, Governor Udom Emmanuel, himself one of the survivors, he said God was giving them a second chance to be useful to themselves and the society at large.
Another survivor, Usire Akpan, a reporter with The Pioneer Newspaper attached to Government House, said: “I saw death, but God saved me. Immediately we entered the church with the governor and my other colleagues, I jokingly told them the structure of the church was bad and it could collapse. It was not up to two minutes that it happened. That is why some of them are calling me prophet”.
Another Government House reporter from Akwa Ibom Radio Corporation, Mr. Uduak Idem, said: “Just as I stepped out to ease myself, I saw people running out of the auditorium. I was already outside. I thank God because it would have been a calamity. Who would have taken care of my children, as my wife had died. They would have become orphans. God forbid!” he said.
According to one Akon Effiong at St. Luke’s Hospital, one of the 10 hospitals where the victims were taken to, she was invited by a friend who is a member of the church. She thanked God for sparing her life.
“I am not a member of the church. I was invited. As people were singing, the rod fell on my head and I fell faced down. I thank God I am still alive”.
A student of University of Uyo, Emediong Asuquo, who was treated at the Government House Clinic that same day and discharged said, she was grateful to God for saving her life, saying she could not explain how the incident happened because it was so sudden.
“I was sitting with my friends when I saw people running to the centre of the church and within the twinkle of an eye, the whole building caved in, I was trapped. Some of us were rescued and revived and I am happy to be one among the living. Some students died, or were severely wounded”.
Speaking with journalists on his sick bed at Ibom Specialists Hospital, the newly sworn-in Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Charles Udoh, said what happened was like a horror movie.
“Watching the roof come down was like watching a scene in a movie. I was actually trying to rush out to catch a flight, just as I stood up to ask for his permission, I saw the roof was coming down. The first thing that came to my mind was to avoid the main pillar from hitting me, the second option was to try and get in between the iron rods. This was within a split second. When that thought came I was like; ‘This thing is going to chop off my head’ so the next thought was to pick up a chair and the thing slammed the chair off my hand and landed on my head.
“I didn’t fall, I was still standing and then my phone dropped off. I went down to find my phone when I realised my face was covered with blood. I tried finding my way out then the lady that was beside held me and was begging for help, I tried to help but couldn’t because she was already trapped. At that moment the only thing that came to my mind was to get out of the rubbles before I lose consciousness. Luckily for me, as I just got out I saw my policemen and I was rushed to the hospital”
According to the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Ekerete Udoh, “I attribute my survival to God because I narrowly escaped being beheaded as the cross beam landed on my neck. Thank God I am responding to treatment”.
Recounting his experience, movie producer, Mr. Ekere Nkanga said:
“Sincerely, I did not know I had a dislocation because I didn’t have a direct impact with the rod. The impact of diving must have been responsible for my broken neck. It was in the evening when I felt a slight pain around my neck that I had to come to the hospital for X-ray. By the time I came back for the result, I could no longer turn my neck, so I was told I needed a neck collar and also needed to be admitted.”
Meanwhile the General Overseer, Reigners Bible Church, Rev Akan Weeks, has appealed to the people, his members and Nigerians not to crucify him.
“Please, this is not the time to crucify me, I’m still your brother. Reigners Church family, I’m still your Pastor. The enthronement was cancelled completely and I am no more interested. Please, let us rise and pray. I really sympathize with the departed souls. Once I am out of my hospital bed, I will come on air and we will pray together. I was also
seriously injured. One of my legs was seriously damaged.
“I am more interested in the souls I have laboured to bring to God over the years, since my tender age. I am so sorry and sympathize with all the families. Please, we should rise and pray together, we will win the battle”.
Since the incident occurred, Akwa Ibom State government has received numerous condolence messages from Nigerians including the President, Muhamadu Buhari, the Senate and House of Representatives, state governors, corporate organizations, individuals traditional institutions,
Meanwhile, the state government has said that, the conflicting figures of dead persons being published in most media houses, especially the social media, is not correct. According to the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, as at Wednesday, December 14, 26 persons were certified dead by the medical team.
The commissioner said that government has no intention of conducting mass burial for those who died, assuring their relatives that the bodies would be released after conclusion of proceedings by the panel of enquiry set up by government on the incident.