At least 50 people died or were seriously injured Saturday when a Church building collapsed in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, several witnesses say.
The police has yet to give a figure hours after the incident occurred. A spokesperson told reporters who called in repeatedly that rescue efforts were ongoing and she could not be certain of the number of casualties.
“The injured are still being taken to the hospital and some people who may appear dead may actually have just lost consciousness,” police spokesperson for Akwa Ibom, Cordelia Nwanwe, told PREMIUM TIMES. “So we have to wait for confirmation of status of all victims from the medical personnel before we can give any figure.”
But witnesses said they counted more than 50 people removed from under the rubble of the building and taken away in ambulances. They said many of those removed were clearly lifeless.
The News Agency of Nigeria quoted rescuers as saying that over 60 victims had been removed from the debris.
The Reigners Bible Church, located along Uyo Village Road, was filled to capacity as its pastor was being consecrated as a Bishop, when the tragedy occurred.
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, who was the special guest of honour at the event, escaped unhurt.
Witnesses say the governor was seated in the front row, while the building, which had been under construction, collapsed from the middle.
Otobong Asukwo, a worshipper in the church, told PREMIUM TIMES that he had stepped out to urinate shortly before the building collapsed.
“The collapse happened from the middle of the Church roof. I noticed that the support for the pillars in the middle were removed, perhaps to allow for more space for people to sit,” he said.
“The governor and his people were inside the church. But they escaped because they were sitting in the front and the roof collapsed in the middle on top of many people.
“I saw one of the aides of the governor badly injured and was rushed to the Hospital. The governor however, appear unhurt.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the building’s iron rafters caved in 30 minutes after the governor arrived.
It quoted a witness, Uduak Effiong, as saying that a female victim’s bowel was ripped open by the impact.
Effiong, a communication arts student in the University of Uyo, said she lost three friends in the incident.
Joseph James, who also witnessed the building collapse, told NAN that the Founder of the church, Mr. Weeks, was also unhurt.