13 dead after church collapses in South Africa

13 people were left dead on Friday after a church collapsed in Cape Town, South Africa 16 are said to have been injured.

The church building in eastern South Africa partially collapsed at the start of the Easter weekend, during heavy rainfall that caused flooding, power outages and structural damage.

A wall caved in at the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Dlangubo, a small village in KwaZulu-Natal province, shortly after 10 p.m. on Thursday, according to Robert McKenzie, a spokesman for the province’s emergency medical services department.

“There was an electrical storm in the area and it might have contributed,” Mr. McKenzie said.

Twelve of those killed in South Africa were women and the thirteenth was a boy, according to reports on the ground.

Some of the victims had travelled 60 miles to attend services at the church and were staying overnight, said Thembeka Mbele, a police spokeswoman.
Mildred Oliphant, South Africa’s labor minister, is a senior member of the church and had planned to attend the Good Friday service there. She called the accident a “devastating tragedy.”

Photographs shared on Twitter show a cavernous, if otherwise nondescript, A-frame building with an entire side missing and bricks strewn across the floor. Storm-related damage was reported across the province, where strong winds ripped the roofs off homes and restaurants, emergency personnel said.

Personal belongings were found far from people’s homes because of the strong winds, said Paul Herbst of IPSS Medical Rescue, a private ambulance service in the region.

The families of the victims were “absolutely devastated,” Thulasizwe Buthelezi, the mayor of Zululand, said in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Service. Two of the victims had worked for the local municipality, he said, including the mother of a child younger than five years old.

READ  SA power utility Eskom takes a step back from Zim power cuts

A spokesman for Willies Mchunu, the premier of KwaZulu-Natal province, told Report Focus News that the deaths were “unnecessary” and “could have been avoided,” although he did not elaborate. He called for an investigation into the accident. Officials visited the site on Friday morning but could not be reached for comment.