Death toll rises in Nigeria building collapse

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A total of 115 people, including 84 South Africans, died in the Sept. 12 collapse of a building at a church complex in Nigeria, the South African government said Monday.

Phumla Williams, a South African government spokeswoman, said South African officials in Nigeria provided the updated death toll.

"There is a team that is working with the Nigerians there," said Williams, who spoke after a plane carrying South Africans who were injured in the disaster arrived in South Africa.

Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman for the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency, said he was unable to confirm the South African government report of 115 dead. Last week, Farinloye reported a death toll of 86.

The fallen multistory building served as a shopping mall and guesthouse at the sprawling campus of televangelist T.B. Joshua's Synagogue, Church of All Nations, on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital.

Farinloye, the Nigerian official, had said church officials prevented rescuers from working at the building site in the critical few hours immediately after the collapse. The church denied allegations that it did not cooperate.

Nigerian officials have said shoddy construction may have been the cause of the building collapse, though the church has tried to implicate Islamic militants, releasing a video that purports to show a mysterious aircraft flying low over the building before it fell.

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