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LAGOS, Nigeria – Nigeria's Akwa Ibom state government says only 23 people died in a collapsed church, an apparent attempt to cover up the true toll when the metal girders and corrugated iron roof crashed onto a crowded service over the weekend.
The Associated Press reported at least 160 people died, using the number of bodies counted at one mortuary by the director of the biggest hospital in the state, University of Uyo Teaching Hospital.
Hospital director Etete Peters said mortuaries were overwhelmed by Saturday's tragedy. But Peters later told journalists that only 24 bodies were at the hospital's morgue.
Reigners Bible Church was under construction when it hosted the consecration of founder Akan Weeks as bishop. Weeks and state Gov. Udom Emmanuel escaped unhurt. The state website put the dead at 23.