A building that was part of “megachurch” complex run by one of Nigeria’s most famous preachers has collapsed in the capital Lagos killing 41 people, rescuers said, as they worked to clear the site.
“We have 41 dead now,” Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman in Lagos for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), told Reuters news agency.
So far, 123 people have been rescued from the site in Ikotun district. The exact number of missing has yet to be confirmed.
The disaster happened as three additional floors were being added to the two-storey building, reportedly a guesthouse for foreign followers of TB Joshua’s The Synagogue, Church of All Nations.
TB Joshua, dubbed “The Prophet”, has an almost fanatical following among Nigerians and people across the world, attracted by his purported healing powers and prophecies.
Joshua preaches to massive crowds at his megachurch every week, and according to his website, SCOAN “hosts thousands of national and international visitors” each year.
“People travel from around the world to witness and receive from the mighty work that God is doing in the life of Prophet TB Joshua,” it states.
Emergency services and the media were attacked as they tried to get to the building and rescue operations were continuing on Sunday, Farinloye said.
Joshua said on his Facebook page, TB Joshua Ministries, that reports that the church auditorium had collapsed and that there had been heavy casualties were not correct.
“The few people that were there are being rescued,” he said on Friday. Joshua was widely quoted in Nigeria’s media on Sunday as saying that a low-flying plane that had been repeatedly circling the building may have been responsible for the collapse.