Unfinished Church in Nigeria Collapses, Killing 160; Death Toll Expected to Rise

Rescue workers tend to the scene of a church roof collapse at Reigners Bible Church in Uyo, Nigeria EPA

Rescue workers tend to the scene of a church roof collapse at Reigners Bible Church in Uyo, Nigeria EPA

Nigerian authorities say the death toll from a church collapse on Saturday has risen to 160, that local mortuaries are overflowing and that the number confirmed dead could yet rise further.

The incident involved the Reigners Bible Church in Uyo, the capital city of the southern Akwa Ibom State.

Hundreds of worshipers had gathered inside the church for the ordaining of a bishop on Saturday, despite the fact that the building was still under construction.

Witnesses said metal girders gave way and crashed to the ground before the entire corrugated iron roof caved in.

The final death toll will likely be “much” higher than 160 and public mortuaries are no longer able to cope, University of Uyo Teaching Hospital Director Etate Peters told the Associated Press.

Youth leader Edikan Peters said many other victims have been taken to private mortuaries scattered all over the city of Uyo.

The state government said it will investigate to see if building standards were compromised. Udom Emmanuel, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, was among those inside the church when the roof collapsed, but he was able to escape.

In a statement, he described the collapse as “an unfortunate incident” and said he had “shared in the agony of the moment.”

He said construction workers involved in building the church were among those who helped with the evacuation, adding “They acted promptly and I commend their sense of patriotism and gallantry.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said he had spoken with Emmanuel to “commiserate with him on the tragic collapse.”

“I asked the governor to convey to the people of Akwa Ibom the deep sorrow felt by me and by the entire country over this tragedy,” Buhari said. “I pray that the souls of the deceased will rest in peace and that the injured will experience quick recovery.”

In 2014, 116 people died when the multi-story Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed in Lagos. A coroner blamed structural faults.

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