Gas leak may have killed 21 young people at South African tavern: source

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Twenty-one youths found dead in a tavern on the east coast of South Africa over the weekend may have died of poisoning from a gas leak, a source close to the investigation said on Wednesday.

The deaths of young people at a popular nightclub outside the city of East London set off a wave of grief in a poor community, as some relatives of the victims expressed anger that weeks of calls to close the tavern went unheeded.

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All were teenagers, the youngest being a 13-year-old girl. There were also several survivors, some of whom were taken to hospital and others unharmed.

A spokesperson for the forensics team declined to comment on any aspect of the investigation until the final report is released.

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The Eastern Cape provincial government said in a statement that “autopsies were performed on the 21 deceased youths and samples were sent to a laboratory … for investigation.”

The incident is still shrouded in mystery. Investigators are combing the site for clues as to how exactly the youths died. Authorities had previously ruled out a stampede, saying they were likely accidentally poisoned by something they ate, drank or smoked.

However, the source, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters by phone that investigators were working on the theory that the youths were gassed in a ground floor room that was poorly ventilated. .

He said tests were under way to determine whether the deaths were from carbon monoxide poisoning, possibly from burning propane or other petroleum products inside the pub.

There was a strange chemical smell coming off the bodies when they were dissected, the source said, but it was unclear what the chemical was. Police were examining all the devices at the scene, she added.

The Eastern Cape health department was quoted in local media on Tuesday as saying that some of the victims admitted to the hospital had complained of symptoms such as chest and back pain.

Television stations showed a handful of angry residents of the Scenery Park neighborhood, where the killings took place, protesting outside the tavern, which had its license revoked on Monday.

Source: CNN Brasil

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