A South African forensic pathologist works at the site of a fatal shooting in the Rosebank Mall in Johannesburg, on June 09, 2022. (Photo by Luca Sola / AFP)

At least 22 people have died from unexplained causes in a pub in the South African city of East London. The incident was reported in the early hours of Sunday morning and the police had launched a forensic investigation, Eastern Cape Province Police Commissioner Nomthetheleli Mene told public broadcaster SABC.

“Three of the injured have died in hospital and two are still in very critical condition,” Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, head of the provincial government’s security service, later told local television. According to the local police chief Thembinkosi Kinana, the dead were between 18 and 20 years old.

The police initially did not want to provide more detailed information about the cause of the incident. According to reports from emergency services, there was a crowd in the small tavern. Some eyewitnesses suspected poisoning of the pub visitors.

The local newspaper DispatchLive reported: “The bodies are lying on tables, chairs and on the floor with no obvious signs of injury.” lay on the floor of the restaurant.

“22 bodies were found on the ground. No open wounds, no nothing. We don’t know if they were poisoned or if something else happened,” said provincial transport ministry spokeswoman Unathi Bingose. “It’s hard to believe there was stampede as none of the victims have visible open wounds,” he told AFP over the phone.

“We will start the autopsy immediately so we can determine the probable cause of death,” he told Reuters as coroners continued their work at the cordoned-off crime scene at the Enyobeni Tavern.