Nigeria: Church obstructed rescue, lives lost

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Nigeria: Church obstructed rescue, lives lost
FILE- In this Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014 file photo, Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman for the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency, speaks on the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria. Lives were lost as church officials prevented workers from rescuing victims at the scene of a collapsed building in Lagos, Nigeria’s emergency agency said Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Most victims were South African, according to the South African government, which said at least 67 South Africans died and 17 appear missing in the rubble of the six-story building that had a shopping mall on the ground floor and guest rooms above. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, File)
Last Sunday, T.B. Joshua played footage of the horrific moment a guest-house collapsed.#VIDEO http://t.co/7ztAsQSdvS http://t.co/n46H4XlrYT
A rescue worker takes part in the search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. A Nigerian televangelist whose followers across Africa and beyond believe he has powers of healing and prophesy is now beset by crisis after one of his buildings collapsed, killing at least 70 people amid allegations that church officials didn’t cooperate with rescuers. The exact circumstances of the disaster as well as the death toll remained unclear on Wednesday, five days after the disaster at a multistory guesthouse and shopping area for T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. A Nigerian televangelist whose followers across Africa and beyond believe he has powers of healing and prophesy is now beset by crisis after one of his buildings collapsed, killing at least 70 people amid allegations that church officials didn’t cooperate with rescuers. The exact circumstances of the disaster as well as the death toll remained unclear on Wednesday, five days after the disaster at a multistory guesthouse and shopping area for T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
A rescue worker walks on the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria Wednesday, Sept, 17. 2014. A Nigerian televangelist whose followers across Africa and beyond believe he has powers of healing and prophesy is now beset by crisis after one of his buildings collapsed, killing at least 70 people amid allegations that church officials didn’t cooperate with rescuers. The exact circumstances of the disaster as well as the death toll remained unclear on Wednesday, five days after the disaster at a multistory guesthouse and shopping area for T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday, Sept, 13. 2014. The building was being extended, adding 3 additional floors when it collapsed. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Headquarters of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in the Ikotun neighborhood in Lagos on September 17, 2014. A popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist was under mounting pressure to co-operate with the authorities after a fatal building collapse in Lagos that claimed at least 67 lives.TB Joshua and staff at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) have so far failed to disclose information to the investigation, the state government and emergency services said. Some 67 South Africans died when a hostel for Joshua's foreign followers collapsed on September 12, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on September 16, with fears that the toll could rise further. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Spokesman of the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) southwest region, Ibrahim Farinloye, speaks about the casuality figure at the scene of the collapsed church guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in the Ikotun neighborhood in Lagos on September 17, 2014. A popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist was under mounting pressure to co-operate with the authorities after a fatal building collapse in Lagos that claimed at least 67 lives.TB Joshua and staff at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) have so far failed to disclose information to the investigation, the state government and emergency services said. Some 67 South Africans died when a hostel for Joshua's foreign followers collapsed on September 12, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on September 16, with fears that the toll could rise further. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
A paramilitary officer wears a face mask at the scene of the collapsed church guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in the Ikotun neighborhood in Lagos on September 17, 2014. A popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist was under mounting pressure to co-operate with the authorities after a fatal building collapse in Lagos that claimed at least 67 lives.TB Joshua and staff at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) have so far failed to disclose information to the investigation, the state government and emergency services said. Some 67 South Africans died when a hostel for Joshua's foreign followers collapsed on September 12, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on September 16, with fears that the toll could rise further. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigerian red cross workers gather at the scene of the collapsed church guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in the Ikotun neighborhood in Lagos on September 17, 2014. A popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist was under mounting pressure to co-operate with the authorities after a fatal building collapse in Lagos that claimed at least 67 lives.TB Joshua and staff at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) have so far failed to disclose information to the investigation, the state government and emergency services said. Some 67 South Africans died when a hostel for Joshua's foreign followers collapsed on September 12, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on September 16, with fears that the toll could rise further. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman monitors the excavation of the collapsed guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in the Ikotun neighborhood of Lagos on September 17, 2014. A popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist was under mounting pressure to co-operate with the authorities after a fatal building collapse in Lagos that claimed at least 67 lives.TB Joshua and staff at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) have so far failed to disclose information to the investigation, the state government and emergency services said. Some 67 South Africans died when a hostel for Joshua's foreign followers collapsed on September 12, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on September 16, with fears that the toll could rise further. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue workers clear the debris of a collapsed guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) at Ikotun in Lagos on September 17, 2014. A popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist was under mounting pressure to co-operate with the authorities after a fatal building collapse in Lagos that claimed at least 67 lives.TB Joshua and staff at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) have so far failed to disclose information to the investigation, the state government and emergency services said. Some 67 South Africans died when a hostel for Joshua's foreign followers collapsed on September 12, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on September 16, with fears that the toll could rise further. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris of a collapsed guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) is piled up at Ikotun a neighborhood of Lagos on September 17, 2014. A popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist was under mounting pressure to co-operate with the authorities after a fatal building collapse in Lagos that claimed at least 67 lives.TB Joshua and staff at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) have so far failed to disclose information to the investigation, the state government and emergency services said. Some 67 South Africans died when a hostel for Joshua's foreign followers collapsed on September 12, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on September 16, with fears that the toll could rise further. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue workers stand as a caterpillar tries to excavate rubble of the collapsed building in search of missing persons at the Ikotun headquarters of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos on September 17, 2014. A popular Nigerian preacher and televangelist was under mounting pressure to co-operate with the authorities after a fatal building collapse in Lagos that claimed at least 67 lives.TB Joshua and staff at his Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) have so far failed to disclose information to the investigation, the state government and emergency services said. Some 67 South Africans died when a hostel for Joshua's foreign followers collapsed on September 12, President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria September 16, with fears that the death toll could rise further. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
BUILDING COLLAPSE, LAGOS, NIOGERIA - SEPTEMBER 13, 2014: On September 12th, 2014 a two-story building collapsed and was located in the expansive compound of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations in the Ikotun area of Lagos. This image was captured on September 13th, 2013 by DigitalGlobe's WorldView-1 Satellite.
Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. A Nigerian televangelist whose followers across Africa and beyond believe he has powers of healing and prophesy is now beset by crisis after one of his buildings collapsed, killing at least 70 people amid allegations that church officials didn’t cooperate with rescuers. The exact circumstances of the disaster as well as the death toll remained unclear on Wednesday, five days after the disaster at a multistory guesthouse and shopping area for T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. A Nigerian televangelist whose followers across Africa and beyond believe he has powers of healing and prophesy is now beset by crisis after one of his buildings collapsed, killing at least 70 people amid allegations that church officials didn’t cooperate with rescuers. The exact circumstances of the disaster as well as the death toll remained unclear on Wednesday, five days after the disaster at a multistory guesthouse and shopping area for T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria Wednesday, Sept, 17. 2014. A Nigerian televangelist whose followers across Africa and beyond believe he has powers of healing and prophesy is now beset by crisis after one of his buildings collapsed, killing at least 70 people amid allegations that church officials didn’t cooperate with rescuers. The exact circumstances of the disaster as well as the death toll remained unclear on Wednesday, five days after the disaster at a multistory guesthouse and shopping area for T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria Wednesday, Sept, 17. 2014. A Nigerian televangelist whose followers across Africa and beyond believe he has powers of healing and prophesy is now beset by crisis after one of his buildings collapsed, killing at least 70 people amid allegations that church officials didn’t cooperate with rescuers.The exact circumstances of the disaster as well as the death toll remained unclear on Wednesday, five days after the disaster at a multistory guesthouse and shopping area for T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. ( AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
A rescue worker uses a hose during the search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday Sept. 16, 2014. Rescue workers early Tuesday dug a woman out of the rubble of a building that collapsed four days ago and she walked away with only a slight injury, a government spokesman said. The death toll rose to 60 by Tuesday afternoon from the fallen multistory building serving as a shopping mall and guesthouse at the sprawling campus of televangelist T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday Sept. 16, 2014. Rescue workers early Tuesday dug a woman out of the rubble of a building that collapsed four days ago and she walked away with only a slight injury, a government spokesman said. The death toll rose to 60 by Tuesday afternoon from the fallen multistory building serving as a shopping mall and guesthouse at the sprawling campus of televangelist T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, Tuesday Sept. 16, 2014. Rescue workers early Tuesday dug a woman out of the rubble of a building that collapsed four days ago and she walked away with only a slight injury, a government spokesman said. The death toll rose to 60 by Tuesday afternoon from the fallen multistory building serving as a shopping mall and guesthouse at the sprawling campus of televangelist T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
CAPTION CORRECTS THE NUMBER OF FLOORS BEING ADDED TO THE BUILDING Rescue workers gather at the sits of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday, Sept, 13. 2014. The building was being extended, adding 2 additional floors when it collapsed. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
CAPTION CORRECTS THE NUMBER OF FLOORS BEING ADDED TO THE BUILDING Rescue workers carry a survivor from the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday, Sept, 13. 2014. The building was being extended, adding 2 additional floors when it collapsed. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
CAPTION CORRECTS THE NUMBER OF FLOORS BEING ADDED TO THE BUILDING Rescue workers carry a survivor from the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday, Sept, 13. 2014. The building was being extended, adding 2 additional floors when it collapsed. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
CAPTION CORRECTS THE NUMBER OF FLOORS BEING ADDED TO THE BUILDING Rescue workers carry a survivor into an ambulance, from the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday, Sept, 13. 2014. The building was being extended, adding 2 additional floors when it collapsed. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
FILE-In this file photo taken on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria. Rescue workers have recovered 46 bodies and rescued 130 survivors from a collapsed shopping mall and guesthouse at the campus of renowned Nigerian preacher T.B. Joshua's Synagogue Church of All Nations, the West African nation's emergency agency said Monday, Sept. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, File)
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By MICHELLE FAUL
Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Church officials prevented rescuers from freeing victims at the site of a six-story building collapse, leading to a loss of lives, Nigeria's emergency agency said Friday.

Most victims were South African, according to the South African government, which said at least 67 South Africans died and 17 appear to be missing in the rubble of the Lagos building that had a shopping mall on the ground floor and guest rooms above.

The building at televangelist T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, collapsed at 12:44 p.m. on Friday but rescuers did not get full access until after 5 p.m. on Sunday, Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman for the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency told The Associated Press.

Death Toll in Nigeria Church Collapse Rises to 70

He said rescue workers were on the scene by 1:50 p.m. Friday and that as they were waiting, they were told that at least three people were trapped nearby. The rescuers saved them, Farinloye said. But church officials prevented rescuers from getting further access, he said.

"Some of us were even attacked (by church members). We wanted to ask the military to deploy to force access for us, but there were many foreigners at the church and we did not want to create an international incident," Farinloye said in a telephone interview.

Church members also were hostile to journalists and smashed at least one television camera.

T.B. Joshua could not immediately be reached for comment but his church published a denial on Facebook, saying "It is very sad that inaccurate reports are coming from some quarters that we are not cooperating with the rescue teams and other agencies." It added "good Christians are good citizens."

Eighty bodies were recovered and 131 survivors were found by the time the rescue operation ended at 3:35 p.m. Thursday, Farinloye said.

The last survivor was rescued from the debris on Tuesday, and had only a dislocated hand, Farinloye said.

He said rescuers lost the two or three critical hours immediately after a disaster when most lives are saved.

Farinloye said they only were allowed to carry out full rescue operations after Lagos state Gov. Babatunde Fashola met Sunday at the disaster site with Joshua, also called "The Prophet," and threatened to take over the site if rescuers were not allowed to do their job.

South Africa flew a team into Lagos to help identify victims and console and help survivors.

The process of identifying victims will be lengthy and might involve getting fingerprints and DNA from family members, South African Foreign Affairs spokesman Clayson Monyela told the AP.

"I think there will have to be a further investigation into what happened and how the church responded, but for now our focus is on helping families identify bodies and see that the injured are attended to," Monyela said.

Many suffered serious injuries, losing limbs and fracturing spines, South African Ambassador Lulu Louis Mnguni said on eNCA television.

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