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Police have launched an investigation into the death of 22 patrons found at a popular township tavern close to East London city.
At least 22 people, male and female, have been found dead at a nightclub in a township in South Africa’s southern city of East London, provincial health officials said.
The bodies will be transported to state mortuaries where relatives are expected to help identify the victims, Siyanda Manana, a spokesperson for the Eastern Cape provincial health department, said on Sunday.
“We are going to immediately be embarking on autopsies so we can know the probable cause of death,” he told Reuters news agency as forensic personnel continued their work at the cordoned-off site.
“We are talking 22 bodies right now,” Manana added.
Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said police were alerted by members of the public to the incident at Scenery Park, about 3km (1.9 miles) from the city centre.
“The circumstances under which they died are under investigation,” Kinana said, adding it was too early to determine the cause of death of the young adults aged between 18 and 20 years.
Local television showed police officers trying to calm a crowd of people gathered outside the club in the city, which lies on the Indian Ocean coast, nearly 1,000km (620 miles) south of the commercial capital, Johannesburg.
Unathi Binqose, an Eastern Cape community and safety department official, speaking from the scene, ruled out a stampede as the cause of death.
“It’s difficult to believe it’s a stampede as there are no visible open wounds to those dead,” Binqose told the AFP news agency by telephone.
“Parents whose children did not sleep home are gathered here and they want to enter the tavern to look for their loved ones,” Binqose added.
He said he understood the patrons were students “celebrating pens down, a party held after writing (high school) exams”.
A regional local newspaper, DispatchLive, reported that “bodies are lying strewn across tables, chairs and on the floor; with no obvious signs of injury”.