JOHANNESBURG — at least twenty people were found dead early Sunday morning in a tavern in the coastal city of East London, South Africa, the police said, in a tragedy that remains unknown something of a mystery and that has left much of the country, reeling emotionally.
Bouncers told investigators that in an effort to control the crowd, they closed the doors to the venue. People outside were said to have tried to push their way in, setting off a panic and a stampede, which may have been exacerbated by someone releasing pepper spray.
But the theory of a stampede seemed inconsistent with what forensic experts had found so far in terms of injuries to the victims.
President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his sympathy in a statement. And senior officials from across Eastern Cape Province and the rest of the country descended upon the Scenery Park neighbourhood, northwest of East London’s city centre, to help attend to the fallout from the tragedy.
Relatives and community members many of them seeking information about loved ones, gathered on a dirt road outside the modest building housing the bar, Enyobeni Tavern, which is tucked in a residential community.
Authorities cannot understand what really happened in that nightclub in the coastal town of East London early Sunday morning.
Siyakhangela Ndevu, the club owner said he was not there when the deaths occurred. He rushed there after his security guard called he found chaos with children everywhere.
“I am still uncertain about what really happened, but when I was called in the morning I was told the place was too full and that some people were trying to force their way into the tavern,” he said.