- Official: At least 130 people rescued from rubble of collapsed guesthouse
- Casualty toll could climb as officials believe more victims are trapped
- There's a "high probability" building collapsed due to construction, agency says
At least 44 people were crushed to death when a guesthouse at a large church that's home to a famous Nigerian preacher collapsed in Lagos, a rescue agency official said Sunday.
In addition to those killed, there were "130 rescued from the rubble of the collapsed guesthouse at The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations," Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, told CNN. "The toll may increase as rescue operation is still ongoing because many people are believed to be trapped under the rubble."
The two-story building is located in the expansive compound of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations, run by televangelist T.B. Joshua in the Ikotun area of Lagos, said Farinloye.
The building came down Friday afternoon amid expansion work on three additional floors.
The rescue operation was delayed by the refusal of members of the church to allow emergency workers from NEMA access to the collapsed building.
"The church members were very aggressive and tried attacking emergency responders," Farinloye said.
Reporters covering the incident were attacked by angry church members, who vandalized a TV camera as a cameraman tried to capture footage of the collapsed building, reporters at the scene said.
Joshua told Nigerian newspapers Sunday that a low-flying aircraft had been repeatedly circling the building and may have been responsible for the building collapse.
NEMA's Facebook page acknowledged the sabotage reports but also noted that two stories were being added to the building without fortifying the foundation of the initial structure. There is a "high probability" this is what caused the collapse, NEMA said, adding that an investigation will ultimately determine the cause.
Joshua, dubbed "The Prophet" for his self-acclaimed healing powers and prophesies, has a large following among Nigerians and followers across the world.
His church attracts thousands of followers who attend his church every week to listen to Joshua's sermons, which are also telecast live on the church's television station.
"People travel from around the world to witness and receive from the mighty work that God is doing in the life of Prophet TB Joshua," according to the church's website.