Two separate church building collapses in the country over the weekend which claimed the lives of adults and children have flared up debates over the state of thousands of buildings and structures that are being used as church premises – issues which should be taken seriously.
On Friday 6th April 2012, eight people were killed at the Retreat Camp of the Deeper Life Bible Church, located at Eyenkorin on the outskirts of Ilorin, Kwara State. According to Punch News, a section of the auditorium’s roof had been blown off by rainstorm on Friday and later collapsed on some worshippers. The worshippers were attending their Easter Retreat.
And the following day Benue state, 22 people including 16 women and 6 children were killed while 36 others sustained injuries when the St. Roberts Catholic Church in Adamgbe village, Vandeikya Local Government area of the state collapsed on the worshippers during a night vigil. Similarly, a rainstorm also happened in this area. The worshippers were previously holding an open-air service but were forced to run into the building when the rain began.
According to Vanguard News, the death toll was high among women and children because they were the first to occupy the front row in the church which was the first point that collapsed.
Journalists who visited both churches after the incidents brought somber tales from the church members and relatives of victims.
At Ilorin, a pastor who was riding on a motorcycle to donate blood for the injured victims collided with a vehicle on his way and later died before he could be rushed to the hospital by sympathizers.
The mourners, who refused to speak to journalists wore long faces, sobbed intermittently and wiped their faces with handkerchiefs.
But one of them, who pleaded anonymity, whose brother was a victim, said the deceased had lofty plans for his siblings.
She said, “This world can be very agonising and devastating. I cannot believe that my brother with whom we came here together is dead. I do not think it is a reality. It must be a dream. This is a big blow not only to me but to the other family members.
“He told me how he was working very hard in his business to ensure that we all get university education, and later to assist us to get good employment or start business after graduation. I cannot understand why we are now going through this ordeal. But God understands better.”
At Benue, some people were seen digging through the rubble in search of possible survivors.
In his account, the Parish Priest of the church, Rev. Father Cosmos Jooli who was still in shock said the aged church was built in 1963, stressing that its pillars were weak and not reinforced with iron rods.
He said: “The age of the church building and the structural defects actually contributed to the sudden collapse,” adding that the weight of the church gave way and crushed the worshippers.
A mass burial is being planned for the victims in Benue while in Ilorin, the church would take care of burial expenses of the victims.
These tragic incidents call for an intervention into the state of buildings being used as church premises. Such venues often witness a large gathering of people who sometimes crowd up every available space inside and spill out into an overflow. The loud sounds emanating from these buildings also contribute to shaking the structures, sometimes dangerously.
For them to be safe for occupancy, the government and its agencies should take renewed steps into ensuring that these places of worship don’t become death traps for many.
My sincere condolences go out to the families and friends of victims who lost their lives in this tragic incident.
News Sources: Punch News | Vanguard News