A Seventh-day Adventist camp meeting ended in tragedy in Zambia when a building collapsed amid strong winds, killing a woman and a 3-year-old boy, local church leaders said Friday.
More than 500 church members were attending the Sabbath afternoon program at the 2016 Annual Camp Meeting near the provincial town of Chinsali at the time of the incident on Sept. 3.
The worshippers were seated in a partially constructed building and under a roof made of tents when the gusts of wind started around 3 p.m., said Urid Chinga, a local district pastor. The wind pulled taut the ropes connecting the tents with the structure’s concrete pillars, causing them and the unfinished walls to collapse.
“This disaster was caused by strong winds, which beat the tents that were on top of the structure,” Chinga said in a statement released by the Adventist Church’s Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, whose territory includes Zambia.
Forty-one people were rushed to the hospital, including nine in critical condition. Two later died of head injuries, local media reported.
Local church leaders identified the two as Clementina Nsofwa, 41, and Ernest Kasonde, 3.
Five people remained in the hospital Friday, said Ephraim Mutoya Jr., communication director for the church’s Northern Zambia Union Conference based in Kitwe, Zambia.
“The Northern Zambia Union Conference wishes to convey our condolences to the bereaved families and the Adventist family in Chinsali,” he said.
Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division also offered its condolences.
“In this time of grief, our eyes look heavenward and remember the soon-to-be realized promise of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” it said in an e-mailed statement. “We are praying for close family members and the larger church family, that the presence of God will sustain you with His enfolding love during this sad time.”
The Adventist Church is growing rapidly in Zambia, where membership topped 1 million last year.
The division said: “Our hope is to be reunited with our loved ones who lie in expectant sleep: ‘For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord’ 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.”