At least 22 young people were found dead at a nightclub in a township in South Africa’s southern city of East London on Sunday, police said.
“We got a report about 20 [people] that died in a local tavern in Scenery Park which is based in East London,” said Thembinkosi Kinana, a provincial police spokesperson brigadier. “We are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident.”
He said all victims were between 18 and 20 years of age.
The Eastern Cape provincial community and safety department official Unathi Binqose, speaking from the scene, ruled out a stampede as a cause of the deaths.
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The bodies will be transported to state mortuaries where relatives are expected to help identify both male and female victims, said Siyanda Manana, a spokesperson for the Eastern Cape provincial health department.
“We are going to immediately be embarking on autopsies so we can know the probable cause of death,” he told Reuters as forensic personnel continued their work at the cordoned-off crime site at Enyobeni Tavern.
“We are talking 22 bodies right now,” Manana added.
“The circumstances under which they died are under investigation,” Kinana told Reuters, adding it was too early to determine the cause of death.
According to ABC News, the owner of the club, Siyakhangela Ndevu, told local broadcaster eNCA that he had been called to the scene early Sunday morning.
“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,” he said.
“However, we will hear what the police say about the cause of death,” Ndevu said.