Africa 13.12.2016 05:51 am

Church roof collapse death toll at 27, not 200 – Nigerian police

This picture taken on December 10, 2016 shows the wreckage after an evengelical church roof collapsed on worshippers in the remote southeastern city of Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom state. The search for survivors continued after a church roof collapsed killing at least 60 people, with many more feared dead.  / AFP / STRINGER

This picture taken on December 10, 2016 shows the wreckage after an evengelical church roof collapsed on worshippers in the remote southeastern city of Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom state. The search for survivors continued after a church roof collapsed killing at least 60 people, with many more feared dead. / AFP / STRINGER

A Nigerian-based journalist said the gruesome scene following the collapse left him ‘traumatised’.

Gruesome pictures of bodies littering the ground after the Reigners Bible Church building collapse in Uyo have left a Nigerian-based journalist traumatised.

Although several media organisations reported that 200 people died, Nigerian police have dismissed this as speculation, maintaining that only 27 have died and 30 have been hospitalised.

Speaking to The Citizen on Monday, Kazeem Ibrahim, a correspondent for the Nation Newspaper in Nigeria, said a large number of bodies were lying on the ground when he arrived at the scene.

“I arrived at the church immediately after the collapse,” said Ibrahim. “There were many dead bodies on the floor. I was shocked with gory pictures of dead bodies and those who had been injured. Family members of the dead wailed uncontrollably. The injured people were rushed to hospital. Family members ran around to find their loved ones.

“I am human and blood runs through my veins. I am traumatised.

“To see dead bodies around is not a palatable issue and every human being would be traumatised.”

Dismissing media reports that 200 people died, Superintendent Cordelia Nwawe said: “That is not true. There have been lots of speculations, but here in Nigeria we don’t deal with speculations. About 27 people have died and 30 are in hospital.”

Ibrahim said Udom Emmanuel, the governor of Akwa Ibom state who was inside the church when the building collapsed, has called for the arrest of the church building contractors.

Pastor Anietie Daniel of Reigners Bible Church said in a written statement: “We share in the agony and anguish of the injured, traumatised and deceased worshippers and guests as a result of the unfortunate collapse of the roof.

“The Church is reaching out to the afflicted in various hospitals to hold hands, pray and identify with them.”

A similar incident happened two years ago, which left at least 115 victims – including 84 South Africans – dead after a guesthouse at prophet TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church off All Nations collapsed.

According to Micheal Evah, a Nigerian prince, some contractors were only equipped to build houses, but accepted offers beyond their scope of work.

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