A bus carrying mourners returning from the funeral of 13 people who died after a church building collapsed in Empangeni overturned on Sunday, leaving 52 people injured.
KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo confirmed the incident that occurred near KwaCeza, and commended all the paramedics, doctors, and nurses who offered medical assistance to the injured.
He said: “We were extremely shocked to hear about the incident of the bus crash, just a short while after we had just laid to rest our fellow compatriots who perished at the Pentecostal Holiness Church last week. We praise the Lord for sparing these lives this time. We are informed that 10 people sustained serious injuries from the bus accident, and 42 had minor injuries. We wish them all a speedy and full recovery,” said Dhlomo.
“We would like to commend our KZN health Emergency Medical Services staff for stabilising and transporting these patients, and the doctors and nurses at Ceza and Nkonjeni hospitals, who received them and swiftly provided medical attention. We dispatched seven Intermediate Life Support Paramedics, six Basic Life Support paramedics, two Emergency Support Vehicles, and one rescue response vehicle to the scene. All our EMS personnel applied themselves fully, stabilising those who were seriously injured, before transferring them to hospital. They were equal to the task, and we appreciate what they did.”
Some of the injured were treated and released, while others remain in hospitals for further treatment, said Dhlomo.
Thirteen people were killed and 16 injured when part of a church collapsed on worshippers following a violent storm near the eastern South African city of Durban, officials said Friday.
The accident happened late Thursday when a brick wall under a makeshift roof collapsed during a service at the Pentecostal church in a converted hangar, in the town of Ndlangubo, north of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal province.
“Such a tragedy. Thirteen fatalities, 16 people treated by paramedics,” tweeted Robert McKenzie, spokesperson for Kwa-Zulu Natal province’s emergency services.
Authorities said the incident happened during a Passover service around 11.15pm as hundreds of worshippers gathered for the long weekend of Easter services.
Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele: “The congregants were sleeping in the building after the church service ended just after 10pm.
“There was heavy wind and rain and the walls collapsed. The 13 confirmed dead are 12 women and one boy. An inquest docket has been opened and police are still at the scene.”
Dozens of local people, dazed by the tragedy, spent hours pacing the ruined interior of the building.
Pastor PY Sibiya told AFP: “There was no (mobile phone) network so I just ran to the police station and called the police, they responded very quickly and they helped us.”
Zwelihle Dhlamini, who lost a colleague in the tragedy, told AFP of his shock.
“Right now, I cannot believe what has happened. I still have not recovered from the shock and so are our colleagues (sic). They are still calling me, they are still sending messages as if something is going to change.”
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, a member of the church, said it was difficult to come to terms with the disaster, “but we know God has his own reasons”.
“I was going to attend the church today. Probably by the end of next week, we will know exactly whether the structure was properly built or what were the challenges about the structure before we say anything.”
Police have meanwhile launched an investigation while other congregations joined authorities in passing on condolences.
South African Council of Churches (SACC) provincial deputy chairperson Father Mlungisi Ntsele: “We have been praying for them, our sincere condolences to the families. As Christians, we pray for one another in bad and good times. Indeed those people of Empangeni are in our prayers.”
(Compiled by Vhahangwele Nemakonde, Background reporting by AFP)