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13 killed as church roof collapses in South Africa

The accident happened on Thursday evening in the town of Dlangubo, north of Durban, after heavy rains.

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collapsed church in south africa
Collapsed church building in Durban, South Africa. Photo credit: Twitter-@SABCNewsOnline

Thirteen people were killed and 16 injured when part of a church collapsed on worshippers following a violent storm near the eastern South African city of Durban, officials said Friday.

The accident happened late Thursday when a brick wall under a makeshift roof collapsed during a service at a Pentecostal church, a converted hangar, in the town of Ndlangubo, north of Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal province.

“Such a tragedy. 13 fatalities 16 people treated by paramedics,” tweeted Robert McKenzie, spokesman for Kwa-Zulu Natal province’s emergency services.

Authorities said the incident happened during a Passover service around 11:15 pm as hundreds of worshippers gathered for the long weekend of Easter services.

“The congregants were sleeping in the building after the church service ended just after 10pm,” said provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele.

“There was heavy wind and rain and the walls collapsed. The 13 confirmed dead are 12 women and one boy. An inquest docket has been opened and police are still at the scene,” added Mbele. 

Dozens of local people, dazed by the tragedy, spent hours pacing the ruined interior of the building.

“There was no (mobile phone) network so I just ran to the police station and called the police, they responded very quickly and they helped us,” Pastor P.Y. Sibiya told AFP.

Zwelihle Dhlamini, who lost a colleague in the tragedy, told AFP of his shock.

“Right now, I cannot believe what has happened. I still have not recovered from the shock and so are our colleagues. They are still calling me, they are still sending messages as if something is going to change.”

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, a member of the church, said it was difficult to come to terms with the disaster, “but we know God has his own reasons.

“I was going to attend the church today. Probably by the end of next week, we will know exactly whether the structure was properly built or what were the challenges about the structure before we say anything.”

Police have meanwhile launched an investigation while other congregations joined authorities in passing on condolences.

“We have been praying for them, our sincere condolences to the families. As Christians, we pray for one another in bad and good times. Indeed those people of Empangeni are in our prayers,” said South African Council of Churches (SACC) provincial deputy chairperson Father Mlungisi Ntsele.

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Africa News & Updates

Kenyan authorities say Ebola case is a “false alarm”

The Health Ministry has spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya has already taken.

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Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki speaks to the media as travellers at the arrival terminal are screened by port health service, at the Jommo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi

Kenya sought to reassure the public and foreign visitors on Monday after a suspected Ebola case, which turned out to be negative, was detected near the border with Uganda.

Uganda last week reported three cases of Ebola, two of them fatal, among people who had been to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where an epidemic has been underway since last August.

Kenyan Health Minister Sicily Kariuki said a 36-year-old woman in the western county of Kericho had fallen ill with headache, fever and vomiting, which can also be symptoms of Ebola.

Further examination found she did not have the disease, Kariuki said at a press conference staged at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

“The Rapid Surveillance and Response Team has examined the patient, who is in stable condition, and has confirmed that she does not meet the case definition for Ebola,” she said.

“I wish to reassure all Kenyans and our visitors that we do not have any cases of Ebola.”

The Ugandan cases were confirmed in a town that is more than 600 kilometres from the border with Kenya.

Kariuki spelt out a list of preventive measures that Kenya had already taken.

They included the installation of thermal cameras at entry points to detect people with high temperatures, as well as isolation units to host suspected cases. More than 250 health ministry workers have been deployed at entry points as part of this strategy.

The minister called on the public to be vigilant, urging anyone with Ebola-like symptoms who had travelled to affected countries to go to the nearest hospital.

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Conservation News & Stories

Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

An agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather

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Namibia plans to auction wild animals to raise money for conservation

Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals – including elephants and giraffes – to generate $1.1 million for conservation.

“Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management,” environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.

The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the country estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years. 

“The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation,” Muyunda said.

In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather.

Namibia’s cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals.

They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus — all from national parks.

The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.

The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants.

The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday.

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East Africa News & Stories

Militant group kill nine civilians in Somalia

The victims were rounded up from the streets or their homes and then shot dead on the outskirts of Galkayo

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Militant group kill nine civilians in Somalia

Nine civilians were executed by a local militia in Somalia after the killing of a policeman by the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, police said Saturday.

The revenge attack on Friday just outside Galkayo – one of the most developed cities in the centre of the country – targeted the Rahanweyn clan, several of whose members are suspected of being Shabaab fighters.

“This was a horrible incident, a gruesome killing against nine unarmed innocent civilians in southern Galkayo. All of the civilians belong to one clan and the gunmen shot them dead in one location a few minutes after suspected Shabaab gunmen killed” a policeman, Mohamed Abdirahman, a local police official said.

“This is an unacceptable act and we will bring those perpetrators to justice,” said Hussein Dini, a traditional elder. 

“Their killing cannot be justified. It seems that the merciless gunmen were retaliating for the security official who they believe was killed by Al-Shabaab gunmen belonging to the clan of the victims.”

Witnesses told local media that the victims were rounded up from the streets or their homes and then shot dead on the outskirts of Galkayo.

Local officials have in the past fingered the Rahanweyn clan for fomenting instability in the region and supplying fighters to the Shabaab.

The local militia which staged the revenge attack are from the Saad Habargidir, a sub-clan of the Hawiye group which is dominant in the southern part of the city. 

Galkayo, situated about 600 kilometres (380 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, straddles the frontier with the self-proclaimed autonomous regions of Puntland and Galmudug. 

The city has been the scene of violent clashes between forces of the two regions in recent years and also witnessed violence between the two rival clans occupying its northern and southern districts.

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