South African police investigate death of 20 at nightclub

At least 20 young people died in a makeshift nightclub in a village in the South African city of East London, but the cause of death is still unclear.
Senior provincial government officials rushed to the scene, where at least six funeral vehicles lined a residential street waiting to collect the bodies, according to an AFP correspondent.

Drinking is legal in South African town pubs, commonly known as shebens or taverns, sometimes even located in family homes where safety rules are seldom enforced.

“The number has increased to 20, three have died in the hospital. But two others are in a very serious condition,” the head of the provincial security department of the government, Vezive Tikana-Gksotive, said on local television.
The visibly shocked head of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, spoke from off stage, a building surrounded by houses in an area called Landscape Park.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable, we can’t understand it, just to lose 20 young lives,” he said, denouncing “this miserable consumption, unlimited consumption of liquor.”

“You can’t just trade in the middle of society and think that young people aren’t going to experiment,” he said.

“No obvious signs of injury”

Provincial police spokesman Brigadier General Thembinkoshi Kinana told AFP that the police were investigating the incident.
He said the victims at the Enyobeni tavern were between 18 and 20 years old.
A spokesman for the provincial community and security department, Unati Binkos, speaking from the scene, ruled out a stampede as the cause of death.

“It’s hard to believe this is a stampede as the dead don’t have any visible open wounds,” Mr. Bincos told AFP by phone.

The website of the local newspaper DispatchLive reported that “the bodies are scattered on tables, chairs and on the floor with no obvious signs of injury.”
Unconfirmed photos posted on social media also showed bodies with no visible signs of injury.
Local television showed police trying to calm a crowd of parents and onlookers who had gathered outside a club in the Indian Ocean city, nearly 1,000 kilometers south of Johannesburg.
“Parents have gathered here whose children have not slept at home, and they want to enter the tavern to find their loved ones,” Mr Binkos said.

He said that he understood the attendees were students “celebrating hands down, a party thrown after written (high school) exams.”