The roof of a church collapsed in southern Nigeria, killing at least 160 people, with the death toll likely to rise, according to the Associated Press.
The outlet reports that the Reigners Bible Church International in the city of Uyo was still under construction when workers began rushing to finish it in time for Saturday’s ceremony to ordain founder Akan Weeks as a bishop.
Weeks, a prosperity preacher, escaped unhurt, as did state Gov. Udom Emmanuel. A crane is being used to lift debris believed to be hiding the bodies of more victims, according to the report.
“There were trapped bodies, parts of bodies, blood all over the place, and people's handbags and shoes scattered,” witness Ukeme Eyibio said.
Eyibio, who escaped injury because he was making a phone call from his car, reportedly heard what he thought was a bomb and then saw that “the church had disappeared,” he told AP.
Eyibio and three others managed to drag 10 wounded people from an overflow area for of worshippers just outside the collapsed church but could not enter the main structure because of the instability of the building.
The 27-year-old said that although he was able to save some, there were dying people all around him: “I’m so traumatized, I could not sleep last night for the horrors repeating themselves in my mind.”
Journalists at the scene say that church officials are trying to prevent them from documenting the tragedy, trying to seize cameras and forcing some to leave the area.
Building collapses are relatively common in Nigeria, mainly because of the use of substandard materials and the rampant violation of building regulations due to inspectors’ taking bribes.
In 2014, 116 people died when a multistory guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city.
Mortuaries in Uyo are overflowing from Saturday’s tragedy, Medical Director Etete Peters of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital told AP.
The outlet reports that family members are secretly taking their loved ones’ bodies home because funeral homes are overcrowded and some do not have refrigeration.
Read more at the Associated Press.