By Amarachi Orie, CNN
Three beachgoers were killed by a “freak” wave in South Africa‘s coastal city of Durban on Saturday, according to local emergency medical services (EMS).
“EMS responded to reports of a freak wave that swept a group of beachgoers against the pier causing multiple injuries,” spokesman Njabulo Dlungele said in a statement published on Twitter on Sunday.
He added that a teenager was among the three people declared dead at the scene at North Beach, which was closed off after the incident.
Another 17 people were injured, according to the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, which said in a statement posted on Facebook on Sunday: “The details of the incidents are still sketchy at this point, however, it is believed that a freak wave put many people into distress while swimming and they tragically drowned.”
The EThekwini Municipality said on on Facebook on Sunday that a team of 35 lifeguards undertook a mass rescue effort and paramedics attended to more than 100 people involved in the incident. It said those who died were swept out to sea by rip currents.
“The Municipality is saddened by the tragedy and sends its condolences to the families of the deceased,” it added.
The head of the provincial government, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, has called for a full investigation into the “terrible tragedy” and
urged “all authorities and operators manning the beaches and sea areas to ensure adequate and preventive safety measure are in place to avoid any further loss of life.”
She also appealed to visitors to follow safety advice when visiting, and to assess unpredictable weather before heading to the beach or the sea.
Durban is a popular destination for South African and foreign vacationers, with beaches flooded with visitors during the holiday season.
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