Families work with government to find loved ones

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pretoria – The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) says it has received an overwhelming response from South Africans, whose loved ones are still missing after the building collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos.

“Since the appeal made for family members to send photographs of their affected loved ones to the Operations Centre at Dirco, we have received an overwhelmingly positive response and we appreciate this gesture of cooperation.

“We have forwarded the pictures to the South African Consulate in Nigeria and the team on the ground in Lagos is making use of the pictures in the process of identifying those of our fallen compatriots, who can still be identified through the use of photographs.

“We understand that some of the bodies may take a while to be positively identified due to the nature and extent of the calamity,” said Dirco on Thursday.

The department has set up an operations centre to assist families affected by the tragedy, which took place in Lagos last Friday. The centre can be reached on 012 351 1000.

The department has also set up an Operations Room in Pretoria, which provides consular services and advice to families 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The public can contact the department on 012 351 0924 / 012 351 1757/ 012 351 1262 or 012 351 1623.

Assessment team in Nigeria

Dirco said it was informed by its Consulate in Lagos that at the time of the incident, there were a total of 349 South Africans in Lagos on matters connected to the church. Of these, 265 were found alive.

It said out of the 84 that are unaccounted for, the figure of South Africans who died - as received from the SA mission in Nigeria - stands at 67.

The mission said that 10 bodies have been positively linked as South African citizens through reference to identity documents found in their possession.

The families of the deceased have been informed. Social workers are present at the Dirco operation centre and OR Tambo International Airport to provide the much needed support to the affected families.

Once the deceased have been positively identified, government, working with all stakeholders, will ensure that the remains are repatriated back home. 

The South African High Commissioner and the Consul-General have been working with the leadership of the church and other authorities, visiting the scene, going to hospitals and mortuaries in an effort to provide assistance to all affected citizens.

Here in Pretoria, the 24-hour operations centre is relaying information from Nigeria to the families, as well as receiving information from the families and sharing the information with the team on the ground in Lagos.

Task team

An inter-departmental team has been put together and the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) has also been activated to provide technical assistance and support to the victims and their families.

President Jacob Zuma has also appointed an Inter-Ministerial Task Team to oversee the matter. The team is led by the Minister in The Presidency, Jeff Radebe. Other members of the team include the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula; State Security David Mahlobo; Police Nkosinathi Nhleko; Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi; Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba; Social Development Bathabile Dlamini, and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Pravin Gordhan.

The team will lead government efforts in supporting the families and doing whatever is necessary to manage the impact of the tragedy.

An Assessment Team has arrived in Lagos to evaluate the situation on the ground.  The team will give feedback to government on the necessary arrangements to be made to treat or bring home the injured.

The team will also work with authorities on the process of repatriating the mortal remains of deceased South Africans.

“As President Zuma said, our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues that have lost their loved ones in this heart-breaking tragedy.

“The whole nation shares the pain of the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, who have lost their loved ones. We are all in grief. This is a time for all of us to work together to bring comfort and support to the affected families during this difficult time,” said the Inter-Ministerial Task Team. – SAnews.gov.za