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14 worshippers swept away by floods in South Africa

Rescue workers search the waters of the Jukskei river in Johannesburg, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022. (AP Photo)

Fourteen people have died in South Africa after a flash flood in a river swept away worshippers taking part in a church ceremony.

Some of the more than 30 congregants were standing on rocks in the river on Saturday when a torrent of water surged through, an eyewitness said.

The pastor was saved after he clung on to an overhanging tree branch as he was being carried away, the witness added.

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Rescuers have now suspended the search of Johannesburg’s Jukskei river.

There are still thought to be at least three people unaccounted for and the search operation, which involves the police and fire service as well as specialist aquatic rescue teams, will continue on Monday.

After having recovered two bodies on Saturday they found 12 more on Sunday, Robert Mulaudzi, spokesman for the City of Johannesburg Emergency Management Services, told reporters.

Earlier he said that the authorities had warned people to be cautious about holding ceremonies in or near the river, which is notorious for flooding during South Africa’s rainy season.

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“Our residents, especially congregants who normally practice these kinds of rituals, will be tempted to go to these river streams. Our message for them is to exercise caution as and when they conduct these rituals.”

Victor Ncube, who had been taking part in the church service, told local news station eNCA that he managed to pull five people out of the river who had been swept 100 metres downstream.

Others had been carried too far down the river for him to try to save them, he said.

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