21 found dead in South African tavern, officials say

Police were called at about 4 a.m. local time in the Eastern Cape Province.

June 26, 2022, 12:48 PM

PRETORIA, South Africa and LONDON -- At least 21 people were found dead in a South African tavern early on Sunday morning, officials said.

The South African Police Service said they were found dead inside a local tavern in Scenery Park in the area of East London, according to spokesperson Brig. Tembinkosi Kinana.

"We received this report in the early hours of this morning. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation," Kinana said. "We do not want to make any speculation at this stage as our investigations are continuing."

PHOTO: Members of the community and family wait for news outside a township pub where multiple young patrons died in South Africa's southern city of East London, June 26, 2022.
Members of the community and family wait for news outside a township pub where multiple young patrons died in South Africa's southern city of East London, June 26, 2022.
AFP via Getty Images
PHOTO: A family member reacts next to a police officer as forensic personnel investigate after the deaths of patrons found inside the Enyobeni Tavern, in Scenery Park, outside East London in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa, June 26, 2022.
A family member reacts next to a police officer as forensic personnel investigate after the deaths of patrons found inside the Enyobeni Tavern, in Scenery Park, outside East London in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa, June 26, 2022.
Reuters

Police responded to the Enyobeni Tavern at about 4 a.m. local time, Kinana said, and were combing the scene for evidence midday. Scenery Park is in East London, a city in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province.

PHOTO: Mortuary vans are seen as forensic personnel load bodies of victims after the deaths of patrons found inside the Enyobeni Tavern, in Scenery Park, outside East London in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa, June 26, 2022.
Mortuary vans are seen as forensic personnel load bodies of victims after the deaths of patrons found inside the Enyobeni Tavern, in Scenery Park, outside East London in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa, June 26, 2022.
Stringer/Reuters

Kinana said the dead were up to 20 years old.

The youngest victim was 13 years old, SAPS spokesperson Col. Athlenda Mathe told reporters. Police were investigating "issues of compliance to liquor legislation," Mathe said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in a statement on Sunday raised questions about why young teenagers had been in the tavern.

“This tragedy is made even more grave by its occurrence during Youth Month -- a time during which we celebrate young people, advocate and advance opportunities for improved socio-economic conditions for the youth of our nation,” Ramaphosa said.

Earlier reports had said 22 people were killed at the scene.

ABC News' Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

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