Government officials made their way to the Pentecostal Holiness Church outside Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal on Good Friday to pay their respects to congregants, who are mourning the loss of 13 members after the church wall collapsed late on Thursday night, reports Zululand Observer.
Twelve women and a 10-year-old child died after the brick wall at the front of the worship building gave in as a result of the severe thunderstorm. Sixteen others were injured during the tragedy.
Pastor PY Sibiya said the congregation began their four-day Easter prayer on Thursday, with many opting to sleep over at the church to prepare for the Easter Friday prayer.
“There were only women in that part of the church, and they were preparing to sleep at around 10.30pm last night. When the wall collapsed, we tried calling for help, but there was no reception so some of us had to drive to the police station,” he told the Zululand Observer.
Early on Friday morning, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube paid her respects at the site. Later in the day, Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant and Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo consoled congregants at the church.
Dhlomo also visited surviving victims at Ngwelezane Hospital.
Addressing the media, Oliphant said she had planned to attend the Easter Friday service at the same church.
“It is sad this happened on the eve of what was supposed to be days of worship and spiritual revival.
“We will be conducting inspections and we will be providing support to the families in light of this devastating tragedy.”