September 17, 2014 / 7:09 AM / in 5 years

South Africa says unknown number of its citizens unaccounted for after Nigeria church collapse

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Around 300 South Africans were visiting a Pentetcostal church in Nigeria last week where a wing collapsed killing more than 60 people and an unknown number were still unaccounted for, the government said.

President Jacob Zuma had said on Tuesday that at least 67 South Africans had been killed when the building in the compound belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos collapsed while three extra stories were being added to the two existing floors.

However, a spokesman for South Africa’s foreign ministry said on Twitter on Wednesday that the figure of 67 needed to be treated with “caution”. Nigerian emergency services on Tuesday put the total death toll from the accident so far at 62. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.

Late on Tuesday Zuma told national broadcaster SABC that an unknown number of South Africans were “not yet accounted for” and that the nation needed to “grieve together.”

Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj told national broadcaster SABC on Wednesday that the government believed that around 300 South Africans from four to five tour groups from the country were visiting the church last Friday but it was not clear how many were on the spot when the tragedy struck.

“It’s a very popular church with South Africans,” he said.

The church, lead by the charismatic “Prophet” T.B. Joshua, attracts a global following of Christians who believe he is able to perform miracles including curing the ill and raising the dead from the grave. (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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