21 dead in South African nightclub; Cause not yet known

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – South African police were investigating the deaths of at least 21 people at a nightclub in the coastal city of East London early Sunday, and authorities said most of the victims were minors as young as 13

It’s unclear what led to the deaths of the youngsters, who were reportedly attending a party to celebrate the end of winter school exams.

Local newspaper Daily Dispatch reported bodies were strewn across tables and chairs with no visible sign of injury.

“At this time, we cannot confirm the cause of death,” Health Ministry spokeswoman Siyanda Manana said. “We will perform autopsies as soon as possible to determine the probable cause of death.”

Police Minister Bheki Cele said the ages of the victims ranged from 13 to 17, raising questions as to why the underage teenagers were being served alcohol.

President Cyril Ramaphosa offered his condolences to the families of those who died.

“However, the President is concerned by the reported circumstances in which such young people have been gathered in a place that prima facie should be off-limits to persons under the age of 18,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

The death toll in the incident rose to 21.

The club’s owner, Siyakhangela Ndevu, told local media he was called to the scene early Sunday morning.

“I’m still not sure what really happened but when I was called in the morning I was told the place was too busy and that some people were trying to gain entry to the tavern,” he said. “But we will hear what the police say about the cause of death.”