Nigerian church collapses on worshippers, killing 160 people

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Heavy duty equipment and machinery are seen at the premises of the collapsed church in Uyo, Nigeria December 11, 2016 REUTERS/Stringer  EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALE. NO ARCHIVE - RTX2UIX2

Heavy duty equipment and machinery are seen at the premises of the collapsed church in Uyo, Nigeria Dec. 11, 2016. Photo by Reuters

Mortuaries in the southern Nigerian city of Uyo were overflowing on Sunday as rescuers pulled bodies of more than 160 people from the debris of a church that collapsed during a service on Saturday.

The evangelical Reigners Bible Church International was still under construction in the capital of the major oil-producing state Akwa Ibom, but on Saturday, the local bishop Akan Weeks was being ordained, according to the Associated Press. Hundreds of people, including Gov. Udom Emmanuel, were inside for the ceremony when the corrugated iron roof caved and the metal girders came crashing down.

Etete Peters of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital told the AP that at least 160 people had been killed and officials feared the toll would continue to rise. Emmanuel and Weeks were able to escape without getting hurt.

“We have never had such a shocking incident in the history of our dear state,” Emmanuel wrote on his Facebook page.

He also declared Sunday and Monday days of mourning in Akwa Ibom.

Corruption in Nigeria has led to collapses in the past because contractors are able to bribe inspectors and build without meeting government standards.

Two years ago, the guesthouse of another church in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, collapsed and killed 116 people. Two structural engineers were charged with criminal negligence and involuntary manslaughter, citing structural failures, though they have not yet stood trial.

A spokesman for Emmanuel told the AP that the state will investigate whether the builders were responsible for Saturday’s catastrophe.

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