At least 20 youths were found dead at a nightclub in a mostly black suburban neighborhood in the South African city of East London (south), a provincial security official said on Sunday.
“The number has risen to 20, three have died in hospital. But there are still two who are in critical condition,” the head of the provincial security department, Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, told local television. A first toll provided by provincial police chief Thembinkosi Kinana recorded 17 dead in the incident at a nightclub in Scenery Park, east London.
“We are still investigating the circumstances of this incident,” added Kinana. The delegate said that the victims were between 18 and 20 years old.
An official with the Safety and Community Department for the Eastern Cape province, Unathi Binqose, ruled out the possibility of a fight as the cause of the deaths.
“It’s hard to believe it was a fight because there are no visible signs of injuries to the dead,” Binqose, contacted by phone at the scene, told AFP. The local regional newspaper DispatchLive reported “bodies strewn across tables, chairs and the floor with no obvious signs of injury”.
Photos shared on social media, whose authenticity could not be verified, showed bodies without visible signs of injuries strewn across the floor of the venue. Local television broadcast footage of police trying to calm a crowd gathered outside the bar in this town on the shores of the Indian Ocean, about 1,000 kilometers south of Johannesburg.
“Parents whose children haven’t slept at home are here and want to join the club to look for their loved ones,” Binqose said. The official stated that in his opinion the clients were students “who were having a party after the written tests”.
The South African website News24 reported that residents had to be stopped by local police after trying to enter the bar after the tragedy.
The same portal says that 35 people who were at the bar are considered missing, according to a list made by the local community.