Church col­lapse

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Lagos, Nige­ria

A crowded church col­lapses in Nige­ria, killing at least 160 wor­ship­pers.

Metal gird­ers and the roof of a crowded church col­lapsed onto wor­ship­pers in south­ern Nige­ria, killing at least 160 peo­ple with the toll likely to rise, a hos­pi­tal di­rec­tor said on Sunday.

Mor­tu­ar­ies in the city of Uyo are over­flow­ing from Saturday’s tragedy, med­i­cal di­rec­tor Etete Peters of the Univer­sity of Uyo Teach­ing Hos­pi­tal told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The Reign­ers Bi­ble Church International was still un­der con­struc­tion and work­ers had been rush­ing to fin­ish it in time for Saturday’s cer­e­mony to or­dain founder Akan Weeks as a bishop, con­gre­gants said.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple, in­clud­ing Akwa Ibom state Gov­er­nor Udom Em­manuel, were in­side when metal gird­ers crashed onto wor­ship­pers and the cor­ru­gated iron roof caved in, they said. Em­manuel and Weeks es­caped un­hurt.

Many un­counted vic­tims are in pri­vate mor­tu­ar­ies scat­tered across Uyo, youth leader Edikan Peters said. He said some peo­ple are se­cretly tak­ing the bod­ies of rel­a­tives to their homes be­cause mor­tu­ar­ies are over­crowded and some do not have re­frig­er­a­tion.

A crane is be­ing used to lift de­bris be­lieved to be hid­ing the bod­ies of more vic­tims, said Peters.

He tal­lied 90 bod­ies be­fore he was told to stop count­ing on Saturday night, Peters said.

Jour­nal­ists at the scene charge that church of­fi­cials are try­ing to pre­vent them from doc­u­ment­ing the tragedy, try­ing to seize cam­eras and forc­ing some to leave the area.

The gov­er­nor’s spokesman, Ek­erete Udoh, said the state gov­ern­ment will hold an in­quiry to in­ves­ti­gate if any­one com­pro­mised build­ing stan­dards. Build­ings col­lapse of­ten in Nige­ria be­cause of en­demic cor­rup­tion with con­trac­tors us­ing sub-stan­dard ma­te­ri­als and brib­ing in­spec­tors to ig­nore shoddy work or a lack of build­ing per­mits.

In 2014, 116 peo­ple died when a multi-story guest­house of the Sy­n­a­gogue Church of All Na­tions col­lapsed in Lagos, Nige­ria’s largest city. Most vic­tims were vis­it­ing South African fol­low­ers of the megachurch’s in­flu­en­tial founder T.B. Joshua.

Two struc­tural en­gi­neers, Joshua and church trustees have been ac­cused of crim­i­nal neg­li­gence and in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter af­ter a coro­ner found the build­ing col­lapsed from struc­tural fail­ures caused by de­sign and de­tail­ing er­rors.

But Lagos state gov­ern­ment ef­forts to bring them to court have been foiled by re­peated le­gal chal­lenges that have de­layed a trial.

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