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14 killed as flood sweeps away South African worshippers during religious ritual

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Not less than 14 people have been confirmed dead while an unspecified number are still missing after flash flood from the Jukskei River in Johannesburg, South Africa, swept away worshippers during a church ceremony, rescue officials said on Sunday.

Spokesman of the City of Johannesburg Emergency Management Services which is coordinating the search and rescue operations, Robert Mulaudzi, said a group of 33 worshippers had joined church rituals on the river banks when the flooding struck on Saturday.

“Some of the congregants were standing on rocks in the river for the religious rituals on Saturday when a torrent of water surged through,” he said at a press conference.

“The pastor was saved after he clung on to an overhanging tree branch as he was being carried away,” he added.

“We had initially recovered nine dead bodies as at Saturday but on Sunday, we discovered five more bodies, making it 14 dead.

“Religious groups frequently gather along the Jukskei River, which runs past townships such as Alexandra in the east of Johannesburg, for baptisms and ritual cleansing.

“Officials have warned residents about the dangers of conducting the rituals along the river.

“We have been receiving a lot of rain on the city of Johannesburg in the last three months, and most of the river streams are now full.

“Our residents, especially congregants who normally practice these kinds of rituals, will be tempted to go to these river streams.

“Our message for them is to exercise caution as and when they conduct these rituals,” he added.

As at Monday, rescue workers and firefighters are still searching for the missing people, with emergency services indicating the chances of finding them alive are fading, he indicated.

Metro

M23 rebels take control of Kitshanga in eastern DR Congo

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The M23 rebels have announced that its fighters have seized control of the strategic town of Kitshanga, in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after days of intense fighting.

The DRC military authorities also confirmed in a statement late on Friday that its forces have withdrawn from the town in a tactical move to protect civilians in the face of a renewed offensive by the rebel militia.

“We have tactically withdrawn from the city in order to attract these genocidal forces deep into the city and avoid the worst for our people in Kitshanga,” spokesman for the military governor of North Kivu, Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike, said in the statement.

“We are making every effort to dislodge this enemy,” he added.

Videos then emerged on social media showing the M23 fighters celebrating and claiming they had captured the town.

The M23 rebels said it took control of Kitshanga town on Thursday night after capturing several villages on the road linking the town of about 60,000 people to the provincial capital, Goma.

In an earlier statement, M23′s spokesman, Lawrence Kanyuka, has accused government troops of attacking civilians in Kitchanga and elsewhere, and said the rebel group was “obliged to intervene and stop another genocide”.

While condemning the recent development, the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO), said more than 500 people, including women and children, are seeking refuge at its base in the town of Kitshanga.

MONUSCO spokesperson, Ndeye Khady Lo, said civilians fleeing from Kitchanga have been given tents, food, water and first aid.

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Metro

237 African migrants rescued off Libyan coast

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Not less than 237 African migrants were on Friday, rescued after their makeshift boat capsized off the Libyan coast while navigating the dangerous Mediterranean Sea, on their way to Europe.

French medical charity, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which carried out the rescue mission, said the migrants were rescued by its chartered rescue vessel, Geo Barents, which was sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, north of the country’s capital Tripoli, when it received a distress call.

“The Geo Barents ship encountered other overcrowded rubber dinghies with migrants attempting to reach Europe and took them on board,” the NGO said.

“Following instructions by the maritime rescue coordination centre, the ship then sailed towards the northern Italian port of La Spezia.l,” it added.

The MSF and other NGOs operating rescue vessels off Africa’s northern coast have accused the Italian government of deliberately assigning far away ports to discourage their operations, an accusation the Italian Interior Ministry had denied.

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