Thursday 22 August 2019

In pictures: Aftermath of church roof collapse which killed 160 worshippers

People are seen behind the fence of the collapsed Reigners Bible Church in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
People are seen behind the fence of the collapsed Reigners Bible Church in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
People seeking their loved ones are seen at the venue of the collapsed church building in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
Heavy duty equipment and machinery are seen at the premises of the collapsed church in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
Heavy duty equipment and machinery are seen at the premises of the collapsed church in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
Local people survey the scene after a church roof collapsed in Uyo, (Photo: Ukeme Eyibio via AP)
A video still shows twisted girders in the wreckage of the church in the city of Uyo Picture: AP
A woman seeking her loved ones is seen at the venue of the collapsed church building in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
People gathered at the site of a collapsed church in Uyo, Nigeria. (Photo: AP)
One of the points of structural failure is seen on a concrete support at a collapsed church in Uyo. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
Broken roofing trusses are seen within the premises of the collapsed church in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
Broken roofing trusses are seen within the premises of the collapsed church in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
People seeking news of their loved ones are seen going in and out of a mortuary facility after the collapse of a church in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
People seeking their loved ones are seen at the venue of the collapsed church building in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)
People seeking their loved ones are seen at the venue of the collapsed church building in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo:REUTERS/Stringer)
People seeking their loved ones are seen at the venue of the collapsed church building in Uyo, Nigeria (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

Hilary Uguru

Mortuaries overflowed with bodies yesterday from a church collapse in southern Nigeria that killed at least 160 people, as worshippers said construction of the building had been rushed.

Hundreds had been inside the Reigners Bible Church International in the city of Uyo on Saturday for the consecration of founder Akan Weeks as its bishop, when the metal girders fell and the corrugated iron roof caved in.

Screaming survivors streamed out amid cries from the injured inside.

"There were trapped bodies, parts of bodies, blood all over the place and people's handbags and shoes scattered," computer analyst Ukeme Eyibio said.

Officials feared the death toll could rise.

Mr Weeks and Akwa Ibom state Governor Udom Emmanuel were among the survivors.

Mr Eyibio had parked his car outside the complex to make a phone call when he heard a deafening crash and saw that the church had disappeared.

He and three others dragged 10 injured people from an overflow area for worshippers just outside the collapsed church. They did not enter the main structure because a construction worker warned it was not safe.

The worker called his boss at Julius Berger construction company, which sent a crane to help lift debris off bodies.

While they waited for the crane, Mr Eyibio helped a man whose legs were trapped under a girder.

"I rushed to my car, got out the tire jack and used that to get the beam off his legs," the 27-year-old said.

"We managed to get him out, but we saw others dying all around us," he said. "I'm so traumatized I could not sleep last night for the horrors repeating themselves in my mind."

Mortuaries in Uyo were overwhelmed by the disaster, medical director Etete Peters of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital said.

Many of the dead were taken to private mortuaries scattered across the city, youth leader Edikan Peters said. Some people were taking the bodies of relatives to their homes because of the overcrowding.

Mr Peters said he counted 90 bodies removed from the church before he was told to stop his tally on Saturday night. Journalists also said that church officials sought to prevent them from documenting the tragedy, trying to seize cameras and forcing some to leave the area.

The church had still been under construction and workers had been rushing to finish it in time for Saturday's ceremony, congregants said.

The governor's spokesman, Ekerete Udoh, said the state government would investigate if any building standards were compromised.

Buildings collapse often in Nigeria because of endemic corruption, with contractors using substandard materials and bribing inspectors to ignore shoddy work or a lack of permits. In 2014, 116 people died when a multi-storey guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed in Lagos.

Irish Independent

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