Three people were reportedly killed and over a dozen injured after a “freak” wave hit a beach in Durban, South Africa on Saturday.
Emergency services (EMS) member Njabulo Dlungele said that beachgoers in the oceanside city were thrown against a pier during the incident, which happened at around 5:00 p.m. on Durban’s North Beach.
“EMS responded to reports of a freak wave that swept a group of beachgoers against the pier causing multiple injuries,” Dlungele said Saturday. “Unfortunately 3 including a teenager was amongst those who were declared deceased at the scene.
“15 patients sustained minor/moderate injuries & were treated by various EMS before being transported to a nearby hospital,” Dlungele added. “A major thank you to the great response from EMS who worked tirelessly to stabilize & rescue all the other victims. The beach was closed off.”
Despite the three confirmations, it is possible that more people may have died in the tragedy.
“Please investigate further…my 12 year old niece died upon arrival at the hospital and she’s not the only one. 3 confirmed dead is inaccurate,” Durban teacher Angel Nomvalo from the Better Life Academy tweeted back at Dlungele. Following up in another tweet, she wrote: “16 kids drowned in Durban beach yesterday and no one is reporting on it.”
Responding to PEOPLE, Nomvalo expanded on her statement: “I can’t confirm the number [of deaths], however when we were at the hospital the nurses said that there were many families who had lost their loved ones that day and some have not been found.”
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Local government leader Nomusa Dube-Ncube, offered condolences on behalf of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government in a Facebook post, Saturday.
“We are devastated by this sad loss of life,” shared Dube-Ncube, adding that authorities have asked for an “urgent report” from their disaster team, who will “continue to interact with the families to support them during this difficult time.”
“It is believed that a freak wave put many into distress while swimming and they tragically drowned,” he added.
Government officials returned a message to PEOPLE stating that the eThekwini Metro spokesperson Musawakhe Maisela would have “accurate numbers” on fatalities in the incident.
“The Municipality can confirm that there was a drowning incident at North Beach on 17 December where three people died,” reads the eThekwini Metro Facebook page. “The incident was due to a rip current, which is a fairly common phenomenon at sea,” they added.
PEOPLE reached out to multiple other parties for additional comments and confirmation on this story.