At least 22 people at 'party to celebrate end of exams' found dead in South African nightclub

Source: news.sky.com : 2022-06-26 06:41:00 :

At least 22 people are reported to have been found dead at a nightclub in South Africa.

Emergency services were called in the early hours of Sunday to the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, on the edge of East London, Eastern Cape province, according to the Daily Dispatch news site.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana told the Newzroom Africa rolling news channel in the country that young people were among the dead.

Reuters reported him saying they were aged between 18 and 20, but there are also reports they may have been younger, with AP saying they were reportedly attending a party to celebrate the end of winter school exams.

Siyanda Manana, a spokesperson for the Eastern Cape provincial health department, told Reuters: “We are going to immediately be embarking on autopsies so we can know the probable cause of death. We are talking 22 bodies right now.”

AP said police were investigating the deaths of at least 20 but reporters at the Daily Dispatch newspaper had earlier said the death toll could be as high as 22.

Another five people have been taken to hospital, according to local broadcaster eNCA.

The Daily Dispatch added that there was speculation those who died were exposed to some kind of poison or died during a stampede.

Crowd gathers as forensic personnel investigate after the deaths of people found inside the Enyobeni Tavern
Image:
Crowd gathers as forensic personnel investigate after the deaths of people found inside the Enyobeni Tavern

President expresses condolences

Mr Manana said the bodies had been taken to state mortuaries.

The club’s owner, Siyakhangela Ndevu, told eNCA he had been called to the scene early Sunday morning.

He said: “I am still uncertain about what really happened, but when I was called in the morning I was told the place was too full and that some people were trying to force their way into the tavern.”

“However, we will hear what the police say about the cause of death,” Mr Ndevu added.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to the families affected.

He said in a statement he was worried about the circumstances under which young people, potentially under the age of 18 years, were allowed to gather at the tavern but said the law must take its course once investigations conclude.

Emergency service vehicles on the scene in Scenery Park, East London
Image:
Emergency service vehicles on the scene in Scenery Park, East London

‘The call is on parents’

Bheki Cele, the national policing minister, told a large crowd at Scenery Park: “The call is on the parents to see that their kids are kept well, the call is on the community to say we can’t allow our kids to die.”

A 17-year-old girl, who said she lived close to the tavern and only gave her name as “Lolly”, told Reuters the venue was a popular hangout with teenagers, but the community wanted it shut down after what had happened.

She said: “Everyone wants it closed down because they sell alcohol to under-age children. Everyone is angry, everyone is sad because of what happened.”

East London mayor, Xola Pakati said in a statement: “What has happened can be equated to a massacre.”

Zulu-language newspaper the Isolezwe News said eyewitnesses told them that “bodies were everywhere” with no signs of injury.

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