Synagogue: Sniffer dogs deployed as death toll rises to 49


Many foreigners are among the dead and injured in last weekend’s collapsed building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), it emerged yesterday.

The death toll, which was initially 17, rose to 44 on Sunday and  climbed to 49 by 6pm yesterday.

Rescue efforts continued as police sniffer dogs were brought in to locate possible areas where people could still be trapped.

More than 130 people have  been retrieved from the rubble. They are receiving treatment in hospitals in Lagos.

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye confirmed the casualty figure.

He said: “The Commissioner of Police has ordered the release of five dogs after a collective decision to use the dogs by responding agencies.

“NEMA has asked the Police’ Disaster Management Unit to facilitate and manage the dogs immediately. We are still working, we cannot say at what percentage we are now. We are looking at strategic areas were we can recover trapped persons.”

On the chances of survival of the injured, Farinloye said those rescued early  have over 80 per cent survival rate.

Farinloye said: “It is not possible for the church to have any list. Nobody is praying for a disaster. At present, we have no challenges, we have synergised the differences and we are moving forward.

“I just received a call from the Australian Embassy and they made enquiries on their nationals involved. South Africa and other countries including France and Germany, have been calling.

“They are not specific whether any of their nationals are involved or not. We contact the church when anybody sends in any request so that they can check and tell us from their head count.”

The church still has not spoken on the number of people in the building, when it collapsed.

Some foreign nationals have been going around looking for their relatives.

A woman, who had a white paper containing the details of a Zimbabwean, Greenwich Ndanga, said the church had refused to tell her his whereabouts.

She alleged that he was among the occupants of the foreign guest house, adding that they had not been able to get across to him since the incident occurred.

“No one is talking to us. I have been here since Friday, looking for him but no one is saying anything. Please help me because I do not know what to do again,” she said.

Relatives of Mr. Dayo Abbas, a carpenter who was said to have been working in the building, brought a coffin to the church premises, demanding for his body.

The casket, which was inside a “danfo bus”, was not allowed to drive in and security personnel stopped reporters from taking shots of the scene.

A Television Continental (TVC) cameraman who tried taking visuals of the coffin was beaten up by a policeman who threatened to damage his camera.

There was a fire as excavation work continued. The Fire Service personnel put it out within 20 minutes.

The fire, which emanated from the rubble, was said to have been caused by combustible materials which must have reacted to excessive heat. It started around 8:55am.

“There are lots of combustive materials in the rubble, especially household items. So, the possibility of it causing the fire cannot be ruled out,” said Mike Sonekan, head, Operations, State Fire Service.

As excavation continued, sympathisers and family members of victims continued to search for their loved ones.

Among those who visited the site yesterday were South African Ambassador to Nigeria Lulu Louis Mnguni; Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone two, Lagos, Umar Manko; Nigerian Air Force officials and a team from the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).

The Nation observed that despite directives from Governor Babatunde Fashola that church members who were not emergency management personnel be sent out of the scene, the collapsed site was still crowded.

It was also observed that the stench from the scene was more severe than on Sunday, which made some of the workers suspect that many more bodies were still trapped underneath the debris.

One of the survivors, Ola, a Togolese, said he was working in the building before it collapsed.

He said: “We were 11 (Togolese) working in the building. I was doing tiles work with my brothers. I left them to get something.

“I was on my way out when the building collapsed. I did not know how I managed to come out.

“As you can see, I am fine. But I am not happy because I do not know where my brothers are. I have only seen Augustine (pointing at a young man with plaster and bruises on his face).

“I have been asking where my other brothers are, they only told me that they are in different hospitals.

“How can I be happy when I do not know where they are. Yes, I thank God I am alive, but it is not just about me. What of them??”

The Medical Director of the hospital, Lanre Soyinka,  confirmed that some of the injured “in their twenties” have been brought to the  hospital since the building collapsed on Friday.

He said most of them were brought in critical condition but have been stabilised, adding that many had been discharged.

“I can tell you that the church has been adequately taking care of the patients. They have provided everything we need to treat them and members of the church have been here running shifts to look after the patients.

“Most of them are foreigners and it appears they were working on the building when the incident occurred. So, for now, those who have family members around have been coming but those who do not, the church has been a family to them all.

“I can also tell you that most of the patients, over 60 per cent, are fit to be discharged at the moment. No one died here.”

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