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Death toll at Nigeria church building collapse rises

15 September 2014, 17:29

Lagos - Rescue workers have pulled three more bodies from a collapsed guesthouse at a megachurch in Nigeria's financial capital Lagos, raising the death toll to 45, emergency services said on Monday.

Ibrahim Farinloye, southwest coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), told AFP by text message that 45 bodies had now been removed from the rubble on the sprawling campus of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in the Ikotun of Lagos.

About 130 others were injured when the building, which housed visiting followers of the church's preacher and televangelist TB Joshua, came down on Friday.

TB Joshua, dubbed "The Prophet", has an almost fanatical following among Nigerians and across the world, attracted by his purported healing powers and prophecies.

Read also: Uganda foils Al Shabaab cell plotting 'imminent attack'

Joshua preaches to massive crowds at his megachurch in Ikotun every week and, according to his website, SCOAN "hosts thousands of national and international visitors" each year.

Joshua has suggested that a mysterious low-flying aircraft could be to blame for the collapse.

But rescuers said a more likely cause was that extra floors had been added to the facility without strengthening the foundations.

Building collapses are common in Nigeria because of the use of substandard material and flouting of construction regulations.

The state government has ordered an investigation but said it was too soon to draw conclusions.

"The governor (Babatunde Fashola) was at the scene yesterday (Sunday) with some officials to inspect the collapsed structure," his spokesman Hakeem Bello told AFP.

Read also: Explosives, suicide vests seized from suspected Al Shabaab cell

"An investigation has commenced into the incident. As for whether there was sabotage, I think the investigation will unravel that," he said.

State officials would determine whether Joshua's organisation had been given approval for the addition of the extra floors.

"The government has asked for the building plan to determine if necessary regulations are complied with," said Bello.

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