Nigeria church collapses, killing scores of worshipers
LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) — As many as 50 people were killed after a church in Uyo, Nigeria, collapsed on worshippers Saturday, officials said.
Akwa Ibom Gov. Udom Emmanuel was at Reigners Bible Church when it collapsed and narrowly escaped injury, He has declared Monday and Tuesday as days of mourning in the state.
“I was present at the church during the incident and shared in the agony of the moment,” he tweeted.
Authorities did not provide any reasons for the church’s collapse but said efforts were underway to rescue victims trapped beneath the rubble.
Officials are still trying to determine the precise number of dead and injured.
“The death toll being given by rescuers could be misleading as people presumed dead from the collapse may have just lost consciousness only to recover at the hospital,” a police spokesperson for Akwa Ibom, Cordelia Nwanwe, told CNN.
‘A terrible thing to watch’
“It was really terrible. It was a very terrible thing to watch,” said Inameti Effiong Udofia, a student living in Uyo who rushed to the scene right after the church collapsed early Saturday morning. “The whole building went down, and a lot of souls were lost.”
Udofia saw and heard “survivors screaming, and people were running up and down. People were killed, some survivors’ legs were badly cut.”
“A building contractor was lifting the steel with cranes to get at dead and injured,” he said.
Like others in the community, Udofia was incensed about the tragedy.
“People are blaming the construction, but there were also too many people in that church.”
Emmanuel has ordered for the immediate arrest of the contractor handling the building project.
Emmanuel’s press secretary, Ekerete Udoh, said in a statement the church “caved around them” at a ceremony to consecrate the church pastor’s becoming a bishop.
Udoh said the state government is assembling a panel of inquiry to determine the cause of the accident and will pay for the medical treatment of all those injured.
Uyo is the capital of Akwa Ibom state, which is in Nigeria’s coastal southern region.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari commented on the disaster in a series of tweets, saying “any tragedy that affects any part of Nigeria affects all of us.”
He spoke with Emmanuel ” to commiserate with him” and “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.”