At least 13 people have died and many were injured when a wall collapsed in South Africa at the start of an Easter service at a Pentecostal church. KZN Emergency Medical Services spokesman Robert McKenzie confirmed on Friday morning that 13 people died, six were seriously injured and 10 suffered minor injuries.
Local officials have blamed the tragedy on heavy rainfall in the area around eMpangeni on Thursday night.
Most of the victims were reportedly women sleeping in the church.
An 11-year-old girl is thought to be among them.
The wall at the front of the Pentecostal Holiness Church collapsed at the start of what had been planned as a weekend-long service to commemorate the Christian festival of Easter.
On Friday, a special prayer service was held in a large tent in front of the church.
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The Reverend Thulasizwe Buthelezi, the mayor of Zululand municipality, said the community was devastated and they would be praying for those affected by the tragedy.
“Christians [from] all denominations – we are here in solidarity. We are here to pray with the church, to pray with the families and to offer our support that God may really heal their wounds.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the church last year and some of the congregants reportedly asked for his support to build a new church.
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant is a member of the church and was planning to attend the Good Friday service there.
She visited the scene and said: “Even at this difficult time, we still need to trust in God.”
Local official Lennox Mabaso told reporters that the church was “a solid structure”.
“It is an act of nature. It is an act of God. Not even a president could have been able to save this particular situation,” he said.
“It was a heavy storm that affected this area.
Provincial cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube was expected to visit the site later on Friday.
Meanwhile, IPSS Medical Rescue teams said they were busy for nearly two hours on Thursday night in the Ballito area as the roofs of restaurants and even some houses were blown off during the storms.
Multiple people sustained minor injuries, including from broken glass and other debris, the paramedic service said.