LAGOS: Forty people have now died as a result of a building collapse at the megachurch of one of Nigeria's most famous preachers and televangelists, the country's main rescue body said on Sunday.
"It's now 40 dead," Ibrahim Farinloye, southwest coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), told AFP by text message.
Some 124 people were rescued alive from the rubble of the building, believed to be a guesthouse for foreign followers of TB Joshua's The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), in the Ikotun area of Lagos.
The two-storey building, located in the sprawling compound of the vast church complex, came down on Friday afternoon. It was undergoing construction work to add extra floors.
TB Joshua, dubbed "The Prophet", has an almost fanatical following among Nigerians and across the world, attracted by his purported healing powers and prophecies.
Joshua preaches to massive crowds at his megachurch in Ikotun every week and, according to his website, SCOAN "hosts thousands of national and international visitors" each year.
Emergency services and the media were attacked as they tried to get to the building. Rescue operations were continuing on Sunday, Farinloye said.
Joshua said on his Facebook page TB Joshua Ministries that reports that the church auditorium had collapsed and that there had been heavy casualties were not correct.
"The few people that were there are being rescued," he said on Friday.
Joshua was widely quoted in Nigeria's media on Sunday as saying that a low-flying plane that had been repeatedly circling the building may have been responsible for the collapse.