From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
More facts have emerged on what could have be the immediate cause of the collapse of the building housing a branch of Salvation Ministries church in Okpanam, Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State on Tuesday evening.
The storey building had caved in during the church’s evening service with over 150 members said to be in attendance.
Four persons have so far be confirmed dead among the trapped victims that were rescued from the debris. Others who sustained varying degrees of injuries are still receiving treatment at medical facilities in Asaba.
Our correspondent learnt that the building was acquired by a new owner who had set to reconstruct it with the aim to expand it.
Sources claimed that although the rent of Salvation Ministries was subsisting, the new landlord embarked on reconstruction work in desperate bid to eject the tenant.
The church was said to have renewed it’s rent in November, 2021, while the property was sold last month.
“The new owner without prior notice to the tenants, Salvation Ministries, entered the church facility to take custody of the building.
“The church, shocked by the development approached its landlord, the former owner, who confirmed the sale of the building and offered to refund the subsisting rent.
“Attempts by the church authorities to negotiate with the new owner did not yield any result as he was adamant on recovering his property,” a source said.
The source alleged that the new owner authorised the removal of a pillar in the building which must have led to the incident.
Meanwhile, the General Overseer of Salvation Ministries with headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Pastor David Ibiyeomie has visited injured victims who are under going treatment in Asaba.
Ibiyeomie was quoted as saying that the church was currently working with relevant authorities in investigating the cause(s) of the incident.
Lamenting the incident, the church said their thoughts and prayers were with affected persons and families, adding that the church was committed to providing all necessary support.