Gov. Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom on Saturday escaped unhurt as the Reigners Bible Church International building in Uyo collapsed during a worship session.
The governor was the special guest of honour at the consecration service of the Founder of the church, Apostle Akan Weeks, as a bishop.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Reigners Bible Church International building, situated on Uyo Village Road, was still under construction when it collapsed.
Its iron rafters caved in as the service was ongoing.
A witness told NAN that the building collapsed 30 minutes after the governor arrived.
‘’When we were about taking offering, 30 minutes after the governor came in, the building caved in. Security operatives took him away,’’ he said.
When NAN correspondents visited the scene, security operatives had cordoned off the entire building while trying to rescue those trapped in the debris.
Another witness, Miss Uduak Effiong, told NAN that a female victim’s bowel was ripped open by the tragedy.
Effiong, who is a communication arts student of the University of Uyo, said that she lost three friends to the incident.
Mr Joseph James, who also witnessed the building collapse, told NAN that the Founder of the church, Apostle Akan Weeks, was also brought out unhurt.
Some rescue team members said that over 60 casualties had been removed from the debris.
However, the state Police Public Relation Officer, ASP Cordelia Nwawe, said that she could not confirm the casualty figure since rescue operations were ongoing.
She said that security operatives had been drafted to maintain law and order at the scene to prevent hoodlums from cashing in on the situation.
“Rescue team members are trying their best to rescue all the victims trapped at the collapsed building.
‘’We cannot tell you the exact number of casualties now as the rescue operations are on,’’ she said.
The rescue team at the scene was made up of workers of Julius Berger Construction Company, the police, army, Fire Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Medical Association and the Federal Road Safety Corps.