PRETORIA – South African President Jacob Zuma announced Tuesday that 67 South Africans died in a building collapse in Nigeria’s financial capital Lagos.
“I am greatly saddened to announce that 67 South Africans died and scores of others sustained injuries, after a building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed on Friday,” Zuma said in statement to the nation.
Rescuers say the church’s hostel, which housed Nigerian and foreign followers of a popular preacher and televangelist, T.B. Joshua, had been overburdened by the construction of additional floors.
At least five South African church tour groups were at the Synagogue at the time of the collapse, according to officials.
The number of South African dead exceeds the previously known toll for the disaster, a grim signal that the number of fatalities may rise further.
Zuma said South Africa was grieving after the tragedy nearly a continent away.
“Not in the recent history of our country have we had this large number of our people die in one incident outside the country.
“Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues that have lost their loved ones in this heart-breaking tragedy.
“The whole nation shares the pain of the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who have lost their loved ones. We are all in grief.”
Zuma said he had ordered government departments to help family members get to Nigeria to identify the bodies of their loved ones, and repatriate the remains as soon as possible.