The South African government Saturday evacuates bodies of its citizens that died at the Synagogue for All Nations (SCOAN), following the forensic examination of the 115 bodies recovered under the rubble after the building collapsed.
The evacuation of the bodies to South Africa is coming more than two months (exactly 65 days) after the building, housing the foreign guest house section of the church collapsed at the Ikotun area of Lagos on September 12.
The 80-man team constituted to expedite the evacuation of the bodies had arrived Nigeria on Friday and commenced preparations to evacuate the 74 bodies of their countrymen, including three Zimbabweans and a Congolese.
It was however discovered during the post-mortem examination that three Zimbabweans and the Democratic Republic of Congo had entered Nigeria using South African travel papers.
The bodies would be airlifted by the two South African aircraft, which had already been secured for the highly-militarised operation.
While one of the aircraft conveyed the repatriation team, the second one, an Antonov 124 cargo plane, was used to transport the eight vehicles and highly specialised equipment used for the operation.
South African spokesperson, Phumla Williams, the mass body repatriation team consists of 80 specialist members from the department of health, the SA Police Service and the SA Military Health Service.
Upon arrival, the team was split into three to cover the different morgues (Ikeja, Mainland Hospital, Yaba and Isolo General Hospital) where the bodies were stored in the cold room for preservation.
The team members at the Yaba General Hospital were seen in protective gears as they evacuated the deceased persons, which was in line with what Williams had earlier said.
The spokesperson had said the team were charged to follow strict safety procedures in order to safeguard themselves from potential risks due to the time period since the incident happened.
It was however expected that before the bodies were evacuated, a formal handover ceremony would have occurred between the SA government officials and Nigerian emergency bodies who facilitated the rescue operation months back.