By Victor Ochieng
A church in Uyo, Nigeria, is mourning the death of at least 100 people after their church roof collapsed on Saturday, reported by a resident photo journalist after visiting a mortuary on Sunday following the unfortunate incident.
On their end, government officials said the death toll had hit 27.
“At Uyo teaching hospital where I am now I could see over a hundred corpses, many are heaped on top off each other on the floor,” said photo journalist Ini Samuel. “Eye witnesses also said yesterday corpses were packed in four each bag.”
According to Gary Ubong, a resident, the Reigners Bible Church roof collapsed on the congregation when a pastor was being raised to a bishop, an event graced by government officials.
“I saw more than 100 dead bodies brought out on loaders,” said Ubong, who said he rushed to the scene after receiving information about the accident. “I also went to two hospitals and saw heaps of dead bodies difficult to count.”
According to a report released by police spokeswoman Cordelia Nwawe, 27 people died and 30 injured in the incident that took place in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom state.
Chief Medical Director of the University of Uyo teaching hospital Etete Peters said his clinic received 21 bodies. He also said two people, who were brought in for treatment, died.
“Victims are in private hospitals and mortuaries scattered all over Uyo metropolis. We can’t really tell how many people have died so far,” he said. “We do not have space as people are still being brought in.”
Murtala Mani, Akwa Ibom state commissioner said that reports indicating that between 60 and 120 people died isn’t true, reported NAN, a state news agency. According to the state’s emergency agency NEMA, six people died and 115 injured in the incident.
State governor Udom Emmanuel, who was present at the church during the event but left unscathed, commanded that the contractor, who oversaw the construction of the church, be arrested, reported NAN.
Cases of collapsing buildings in Nigeria is quite common. This has been attributed to unlicensed structures, cheap materials and rampant corruption.
Many critics say Nigerian officials usually understate death tolls whenever such incidents occur, including in deaths associated with the Boko Haram jihadist group.
For example, last year when a gas blast occurred in southern Nigeria, the presidency said only “tens of people” died. However, witnesses said they counted more than 100 bodies.