Shocking news this evening of a church roof collapsing and killing as many as 60 people. Reigners Bible Church was under construction, but a service was being held under the incomplete structure when it collapsed on the assembly. Early reports suggest there may be more deceased and many more injured.
News of a collapsed structure, sadly, is not that uncommon in Nigeria where lax standards and outright corruption plague the building industry. But a church has unique issues that make it unlike other construction programs. That doesn’t excuse the catastrophe in Nigeria, but it does offer some perspective.
The pictures coming from the site of the tragedy show buckled metal trusses laying on the ground. Eye witnesses relate the horror of massive pieces of steel suddenly falling and crushing people underneath. From what I can see of the structure from some early photos, these trusses were arrayed like spokes on a wheel to form a curved structure.
Those steel trusses are typical of a church assembly space that requires a long-span structure. Other building types, such as houses or businesses, are most often constructed with short-span structures. Interior spaces are relatively small and interior columns or bearing walls help carry roof loads. Churches, especially those with large assemblies, require open spaces without interior columns or walls. And contemporary church assemblies with arcs of seating surrounding the chancel may require significant spans to accommodate the required seating.
This is only speculation but since the Reigners Bible Church was still under construction, perhaps the lateral bracing required to keep the long span structure from twisting and falling may not have been properly placed. It could also be the main wall or column supporting the trusses was insufficient, or had not been completely installed. Long span structures require careful design, plenty of engineering, and capable contractors to install the correctly.
Whatever the cause, the dramatic failure is devastating. One Nigerian website has already posted photos of people crushed under the steel. Those I won’t share with you, but they serve as an important reminder that church design and construction needs to be planned and built properly and with care.
Reigners Bible Church is one of the fastest growing churches in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria