South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation has had an overwhelming response from people whose loved ones are still missing after the building collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, on 12 September.
“Since the appeal made for family members to send photographs of their affected loved ones to the Operations Centre at Dirco, we have received an overwhelmingly positive response and we appreciate this gesture of cooperation,” the department said in a statement on Thursday.
“We have forwarded the pictures to the South African Consulate in Nigeria and the team on the ground in Lagos is making use of the pictures in the process of identifying those of our fallen compatriots, who can still be identified through the use of photographs.
“We understand that some of the bodies may take a while to be positively identified due to the nature and extent of the calamity.”
Dirco’s operations centre to help families affected by the tragedy can be contacted on 012 351 1000. Its newly set up operations room in Pretoria also provides consular services and advice to families, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The public can contact the department on the following numbers:
- 012 351 0924
- 012 351 1757
- 012 351 1262
- 012 351 1623
Assessment team in Nigeria
According to the South African consulate in Lagos, there were 349 South Africans visiting the church at the time of the incident. Of these, 265 were found alive.
That leaves 84 unaccounted for. The number of South Africans confirmed dead, according to the South African mission in Nigeria, currently stands at 67.
The mission said 10 bodies have been positively identified as South African citizens by reference to identity documents found on their bodies. The families of the deceased have been informed. Social workers are available at the Dirco operation centre and OR Tambo International Airport to provide support to these families.
Once the deceased have been positively identified, the government will ensure their remains are returned home.
The South African high commissioner and consul-general have been working the church’s leadership and other authorities, visiting the scene and going to hospitals and mortuaries to identify those nationals injured or killed.
In Pretoria, the 24-hour operations centre is relaying information from Nigeria to families, as well as receiving information from families and sharing the information with the team on the ground in Lagos.
An inter-departmental team has been put together and the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure has also been activated to provide technical assistance and support to the victims and their families.
The team is led by Jeff Radebe, the minister in the presidency, and is made up of a number of ministers of national departments. It will lead efforts to support the families and manage the impact of the tragedy.
An assessment team has arrived in Lagos to evaluate the situation on the ground. This will give feedback to the government on the arrangements needed to treat or bring home the injured. It will also work with Nigerian authorities to return the dead to South Africa.
“Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues that have lost their loved ones in this heart-breaking tragedy,” Dirco said.
“The whole nation shares the pain of the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, who have lost their loved ones. We are all in grief. This is a time for all of us to work together to bring comfort and support to the affected families during this difficult time.”
SANews.gov.za and SouthAfrica.info reporter