Media release

Update on the South African citizens affected by the church building collapse in Nigeria

19 September 2014

19 September 2014

Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Fellow South Africans,

This briefing provides an update on the South African citizens affected by the Synagogue Church of All Nations building collapse and situation in Lagos, Nigeria.

We are aware that this is a difficult period of uncertainty for the nation, particularly for the families, friends and colleagues of those directly affected.

We can assure you that the South Africa Government is working around the clock, together with the Nigerian Government and the leadership of the Church, through the South African High Commission and Consulate-General in Nigeria to assist survivors and to recover, identify and confirm the deceased. South Africa has dispatched assessment, medical, forensic, social development and disaster management teams in this regard.

The team deployed to Lagos comprise of internationally acclaimed experts in the field of forensic science and disaster management. A leading member of the team is Brigadier Helena Ras, Head of Technology Management, Criminal Records and Forensic Sciences. Brigadier Ras is an international expert on body identification and she consulted internationally on disaster management. 

The South African assessment team is already in Lagos is assessing the situation on the ground and reporting back to the Inter-Ministerial Committee through the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS). The NATJOINTS is the operational structure of the JCPS Cabinet Cluster constituting of all JCPS member departments such as SAPS, SANDF, Justice and Correctional Services, NPA, Home Affairs, Social Development, Health, COGTA and State Security. The NATJOINTS has activated all its nine Provincial Operation Centres to directly liaise with families.

The NATJOINTS is meeting twice daily to assess information received from the team deployed in Nigeria and give direction.

The assessment team is focussing on the following specific areas: body recovery and repatriation, victims listing and confirmation, post-mortems as well as assessing of injured persons to determine the medical condition and the required levels of care.

The team has confirmed that, at the time of the incident, there were a total of 349 South Africans in Lagos visiting the church. As of yesterday evening, the total number of unaccounted for South Africans and presumably deceased remains at 84. This figure however remains tentative as it is still subject to confirmation through forensic tests.  As soon as our team on the ground has completed the verification, we will know exactly how many South Africans have perished.

The Department of Social Development has dispatched teams to provide psychosocial support to families of the injured and the deceased. Other teams are on stand-by around the country and will be activated as victims are confirmed and their families are notified.  At present, a team of social workers has been dispatched to the OR Tambo International Airport where they have been providing support to families awaiting the return of their loved ones as well as South Africans returning from Nigeria. Another team of social workers has been assigned to the Department of International Relations to offer support to the families who arrive to make inquiries about their family members.

Due to the nature and extent of the tragedy, the process of identifying the mortal remains requires meticulous attention to detail; and Government is confident that the team assigned to carry out this task has the necessary capacity and skill. Meanwhile, we call for patience on the publication of victims’ names while the due processes are followed.

Family members have been contacted and arrangements have been put in place for them to participate in the identification process of the deceased. Only after this process has been completed can the names of the deceased be released to the families.

The Government call centre dedicated to the disaster (012 351 1000) continues to provide information to affected families and friends as well as relaying information from the families to the mission in Nigeria.  has set up a call centre that is handling enquiries to provide information and counselling services for affected families and friends.

Furthermore, Government has put in place a basket of services with social partners to survivors and affected families during this difficult time. This includes counselling and support services, medical assessment and care, transport, amongst others.

To this end we will be providing regular updates based on information drawn from the teams to the public and affected citizens in Nigeria and at home – as it becomes available.  

Enquiries: Phumla Williams on 083 501 0139

Issued on behalf of the Inter-ministerial Task Team on the Nigerian Tragedy

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