Sixty-seven South Africans have been killed and scores injured in the collapse of a building in the compound of a Lagos Pentecostal church last week, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said.
“This is a particularly difficult time for South Africa. Not in the recent history of our country have we had this large number of our people die in one incident outside the country,” Zuma said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The whole nation shares the pain of the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who have lost their loved ones.”
The guest house, under construction in the compound belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations, headed by “Prophet” T B Joshua, collapsed on Friday while three extra stories were being added to its existing two floors.
Local emergency services put the total number killed in the collapse in the Ikotun neighbourhood of Lagos at 61 on Tuesday.
There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy in the numbers.
Meanwhile South Africans expressed their shock and outrage over social media, asking government officials why it had taken so long for the details to emerge.
Clayson Monyela, South Africa’s head of Public Diplomacy, said over twitter that numbers took time to emerge because the team in Nigeria were not getting the cooperation they needed.
Monyela also said the death toll could rise.
South African Department of International Relations spokesman Nelson Kgwete said in a statement on Monday that “at least five South African church tour groups were at the Synagogue at the time of the collapse”.
Another 131 people who had been in the building survived, said Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency in the southwest.
Representatives of the church could not immediately be reached for comment.
TB Joshua’s church draws thousands of followers from all over Africa and many other parts of the world, attracted by claims that he and his inner circle have special healing powers, including cures for normally incurable ailments including HIV/AIDS and chronic kidney disease.