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Funeral process begins for church victims

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The process of sending the bodies of those killed in the Nigerian church building collapse to their places of burial has commenced, government said on Tuesday.

This followed the official reception ceremony for 74 victims held at Waterkloof Air Force Base on Sunday, Nigeria inter-ministerial task team spokeswoman Phumla Williams said in a statement.

“The mortal remains were transported to the Garankuwa Forensic Pathology Mortuary where they were prepared for transportation by road to their final destinations across the country.”

Areas nearest to Pretoria, such as the North West, had by Monday evening received mortal remains.

“Given the longer distances, Forensic Pathology Service vehicles are expected to arrive in the Free State and Eastern Cape on Thursday,” Williams said.

“Government continues to communicate with family members to explain the exact dates and times their loved ones are scheduled to arrive at the government mortuary nearest to the place of burial.”

Social workers continued to be on hand to provide psycho-social support to families, as they prepared to lay their loved ones to rest.

“Government urges family members not to suffer the pain of the loss of their loved ones alone in silence,” she said.

“The Social Development toll-free number remains available to family members who require the assistance of a grief counsellor.”

The South African government continued to work closely with Nigerian authorities and all efforts were being made to complete the identification process and repatriation of the remaining South Africans.

“Whilst the identification process is in the hands of Nigerian authorities, the government of South Africa remains committed to provide as much assistance as possible to correctly identify the deceased and bring them home for a proper send off.”

Disaster victim identification specialists from the South African police were currently going back to families of the remaining eleven South Africans to collect additional DNA samples for matching.

“We thank the families for their patience and co-operation as we proceed with the process,” Williams said.

“We wish to reassure the families of the eleven South Africans that all possible efforts are being made to reunite them with their loved ones as quickly as circumstances permit.”

Given the amount of time that has passed since the collapse happened and state of preservation of the bodies, the identification process had become increasingly challenging and could take some time to complete.

“Communities are urged to continue to offer support to the affected families during this difficult hour when they will be laying their loved ones to rest,” she said.

A guest house belonging to the Synagogue Church Of All Nations in Lagos, headed by preacher TB Joshua, collapsed on September 12, killing 116 people.

They included 81 South Africans, as well as three Zimbabweans and one Democratic Republic of Congo national using South African travel papers. SAPA


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