At least 13 worshippers have been killed and 16 injured at the start of an Easterservice after a South African church partially collapsed on Thursday night.
The congregation was attending a Passover service in Dlangubo, in the coastal region KwaZulu-Natal when the accident occurred, hospitalising 29 people.
Days of heavy rainfall and strong winds are believed to have been a major factor in the tragedy, as attested to by a preliminary government report.
Police said most of the victims were young, with one aged only 11. It is also thought that some people were sleeping in the church when the wall caved in.
“Congregants at the Pentecostal Church at Empangeni were sleeping in the structure when there [was] heavy wind and rain, that’s when the building collapsed,”
police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele told Eyewitness News (South Africa).
Pictures taken at the scene showed considerable amounts of bricks and rubble littered across a large area of the church.
An emotional prayer service was held nearby today and an official investigation is now underway.
It appears that other buildings in the region were similarly afflicted last night.
“IPSS Medical Rescue’s medical teams and rescue division were kept busy last night after a storm hit the Ballito and surrounding areas on the North Coast,”
the team wrote on Facebook this morning.
“[Our] teams attended four structural collapses, nine accidents, flooding complaints and treated 22 people all related to the storm.”
Residents were left without electricity, while houses and buildings were flooded and buffeted by wind to the extent that personal belongings were found up to 200m away, the rescue team said.
Main image copyright: Arrive/ KZN EMS
Additional reporting by PA