February 9, 2023

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The Legal System

Nine dead after flash floods in South Africa wash away worshippers during river ‘baptism’ | World News

At least nine people have died and eight others are missing after a group of worshippers were swept away by a flash flood during a religious ritual in Johannesburg.

Emergency teams were dispatched to the Jukskei river after a congregation of 33 people gathered for what is thought to be a baptism or cleansing ritual on Saturday.

Two bodies were recovered on Saturday evening, and a further seven were found when the rescue mission resumed on Sunday morning.

Family members have been identifying their deceased loved ones, according to local reports, which suggest the operation is now a search and recovery rather than rescue mission.

Johannesburg emergency services spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said officials repeatedly warned residents about the dangers of taking part in religious ceremonies along the river – particularly after weeks of heavy rainfall in the city left many streams full.

He told a news briefing: “Our residents, especially congregants who normally practice these kinds of rituals, will be tempted to go to these river streams.

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

Cleansing rituals and baptisms are often held along the Jukskei river, which runs along many townships including Alexandra, in the east of Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city.

Mr Mulaudzi tweeted footage of emergency crews including a helicopter preparing to resume the search on Sunday morning.

He also shared a video of rescue teams walking along and in the river in the search for victims.