Twenty-six injured survivors of a Nigerian church collapse were repatriated home Monday, after a tragedy that claimed 86 lives, most of them South Africans.
A military aircraft carrying the survivors, 16 of them with critical injuries, landed at Swartkop Air Force Base in the capital Pretoria shortly before 0900 GMT.
The 26 survived after being trapped under rubble when a guesthouse attached to the church run by a prominent Nigerian preacher TB Joshua collapsed more than a week ago.
The patients were evacuated from Lagos on a plane “equipped to treat critically injured patients,” said Jeff Radebe, the minister in charge of Pretoria’s response to the disaster.
A 19-member medical team including specialized doctors, nurses and medical military paramedics took care of the injured on board.
On arrival, the patients were carried on stretchers to ambulances and transferred to one of the country’s top government hospitals, the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.
Two surviving toddlers were seen being carried from the plane by military social officers.
Some 350 South Africans were thought to be visiting the church in the Ikotun neighborhood of the megacity of Lagos when the three-storey building came down during construction work.
Joshua, one of Nigeria’s best-known evangelical preachers, on Sunday pledged to visit South Africa to meet survivors and their families.
Known by followers across the world as “The Prophet” or “The Man of God”, Joshua claims to work miracles, including raising people from the dead, healing the sick and foreseeing disasters.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan visited the church on Saturday and promised to investigate the cause of the tragedy.
He said he would hold talks with stakeholders in the construction industry on how to prevent such a thing happening again, expressing his condolences to South African President Jacob Zuma.