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21 South African Teens Die Mysteriously In A Tavern

Yellow police tape now cordons off the drinking place in the South African city of East London where 21 teenagers died in unexplained circumstances.

A forensic team has been going through the site at the Enyobeni Tavern to try to understand what exactly took place.

There were no visible injuries on the bodies of the deceased, the authorities have said, so a crush seems an unlikely explanation.

Some have said the victims were poisoned, but this is not confirmed.

South Africa's liquor board has said the owners of the tavern would face criminal charges after allegedly breaching licensing agreements.

Some family members of the victims have been gathering at the tavern to try and find out the latest news.

Among them was Xolile Malangeni.

His 17-year-old daughter, Sinako, snuck out of her home on Saturday night but never returned.

"[She] always loved and took care of me when I was ill," her father said with tears in his eyes.

The youngest of those who died was 13 and the oldest was 17, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele - but a detailed list of the victims has not yet been produced.

The minimum drinking age in South Africa is 18, so they should not have been allowed in. The tavern, a two-storey building, sits amid residential properties in a densely populated area of East London's Scenery Park township.

It has been the focus of a lot of community anger, residents said. They had previously complained to the police about the noise and the late opening hours.

It is not clear why there were so many young people there on Saturday night. The owner has been quoted in local media as saying they had come to celebrate the end of school exams, having gone there after a "pens down" party ended elsewhere.

Two of the victims died either on the way to hospital or in hospital, but the other 19 died inside the venue itself. They were found slumped over tables or on the floor.

The tavern's entertainment manager, Promise Matinise, said that he saw people collapsing one after the other. At first he assumed they had passed out from drinking too much and then realised that some had stopped breathing.

Earlier, he said, bouncers had struggled to control the large crowds that had entered the establishment.

Speaking on Sunday, Oscar Mabuyane, premier of East Cape Province where the tragedy happened, did not give possible reasons for the deaths, but condemned the "unlimited consumption of liquor".

Visiting the scene, he said: "You can't just trade in the middle of society like this and think that young people are not going to experiment."