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14 Churchgoers Die in Flash Flood while Conducting Rituals in South African River

14 Churchgoers Die in Flash Flood while Conducting Rituals in South African River

Authorities say 14 people are dead after a flash flood in Johannesburg, South Africa, swept away members of a church congregation worshipping along the Jukskei River.

On Saturday, authorities recovered two bodies. Another 12 bodies were found on Sunday, Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said.

The church congregation was participating in rituals along the river when a flash flood quickly swept away several of the churchgoers. It is estimated that the surge wave was more than two feet high at points.

The churchgoers were standing on rocks near the river or in ankle-deep water in the river. According to reports, the priest at the rituals, which included baptisms, survived.

The South African Weather Services has warned that heavy rain continues to fall and more flooding is possible, especially in large parts of the Gauteng province.

Congregations often gather to conduct church rituals, including cleansing and baptism, along the Jukskei River, according to officials.

People have free access to rivers and “practice their religion where they wish,” spokesman Mulaudzi said. “But we must intensify our awareness campaigns to avoid such tragedies.”

“We have been receiving a lot of rain on the city of Johannesburg in the last three months, and most of the river streams are now full,” he added. “Our residents, especially congregants who normally practice these kinds of rituals, will be tempted to go to these river streams,” Mulaudzi said during a news briefing.

“Our message for them is to exercise caution as and when they conduct these rituals,” he said.

Earlier this year, in June, four people drowned in the Limpopo province during baptism ceremonies. At Easter, the Water and Sanitation Department warned citizens that baptisms and other ceremonies at the rivers could be dangerous.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Bee32, this is a stock image.

Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and She blogs at The Migraine Runner.

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