Plane carrying SA survivors from Nigeria delayed

Government announced on Sunday that 26 South Africans injured in the Lagos church collapse would be evacuated to Pretoria.

One of the soldiers manning the main entrance to the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria, where the plane is expected to arrive, said the plane would touch down after 10am.

“The cause of the delay, I do not know but it [the plane] will not be arriving now,” said the soldier who did not want to give his name. An advisory issued by the Government Communication and Information System on Sunday said the plane was set to land at the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria at 7am. 

Acting Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said: “We have since been told by officials that it delayed departure in Lagos. They are now expecting it to touch down at about 10.30am. Unfortunately I don’t have the specific reasons on why it was delayed.” 

The survivors would be taken to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. A convoy of 12 ambulances, Tshwane metro police officers and the SA Police Service Flying Squad entered the military base after 7am.

An inter-ministerial task team led by Presidency Minister Jeff Radebe is set to welcome the patients from Lagos. Eighty-six people were killed when a guesthouse belonging to the church collapsed on September 12. Among those killed were 84 South Africans.

Extra measures to help returning children
Social workers would receive two South African toddlers orphaned by the building collapse in Nigeria when they arrived in the country on Monday morning, an official said.

The two orphans were aged 18 months and two years, Williams said. Another child, aged six, was also part of the 26 injured South Africans arriving home from Nigeria. Williams said the three children were in good hands.

“These kids, we are expecting that the social development (department) will assist in making sure that they link them up with their relatives,” she told reporters outside the Swartkop Air Force Base in Pretoria. “Yes, there is a process to make sure that they are taken to their families.” 

Williams said the country’s military health service had sent a mass casualty aero-medical evacuation team to Lagos. “Among them is an orthopaedic surgeon, Colonel Theo le Roux, an internationally recognised trauma surgeon; four aero-medical officers, as well as nursing officers who have specialised in aviation medicine, and eight military paramedics,” she said. 

The team would evacuate patients and help the critically wounded on their 10-hour flight back to South Africa. “Extra measures were taken to provide care and comfort to injured children on board,” said Williams.

TB Joshua will visit SA
Meanwhile Nigerian preacher TB Joshua on Sunday said he would travel to South Africa in the coming weeks to meet families and survivors of a building collapse at his church that killed scores.  

Joshua told the congregation during his weekly morning service that he “will be travelling to South Africa to meet people from South Africa and other nations who find South Africa easier to visit, in memory of martyrs of faith.” Joshua also observed a minute silence “in memory of martyrs of faith”. 

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 a repeat of the tragedy, adding that he had expressed his sympathies to South African President Jacob Zuma. – Sapa

Update: Nigeria church collapse survivors back in SA

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