Two people feared dead in religious ceremony gone wrong

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By Everson Luhanga

Two people are feared to have been killed after they were washed away while undergoing a cleansing ceremony in the Klip River in Olifantsvlei, south of Johannesburg on Saturday.

The City of Johannesburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) has confirmed the incident and that a search is underway for the bodies of an 18-year-old woman and a 21-year-old man.

The traditional healer who was performing the ceremony managed to get out of the river unharmed.

EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said the department was notified of the missing two people on Sunday and the search for the two bodies commenced.

“EMS Aquatic Rescue Unit together with SAPS Water Wing are currently searching for two bodies washed away during a cleansing ritual,” he said.

Mulaudzi said this recent incident once again highlights the dangers of these rituals. He said traditional healers, prophets, and pastors are urged to ensure the safety of congregants while conducting cleansing or baptism rituals at all times.

“People conducting rituals in rivers and streams should consider the safety of their followers,” he said.

Last year, 16 people, including a three-month-old baby, drowned when heavy rains caused flash flooding at the Jukskei River in Alexandra. The people were participating in a baptism ceremony on 3 December.

Mulaudzi, who was with officials at the scene, said it is not clear how many people participated in the ceremony.

“What we have been informed is that several people were part of the rituals and only two have been reported to have disappeared,” he said.

“The South African Police Service are in touch with the families and will take further steps in their investigations.”

He said the Johannesburg EMS will be conducting a safety campaign this summer about cautioning the community about drowning.

“We will be inviting pastors, prophets, and other people who conduct baptism and other rituals in rivers and streams.”

At around 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, the officials had called off the search to be continued on Monday.

Meanwhile, the families of the missing people still hope that their beloved members will be found alive.

Pictured above: Klip River in Olifantsvlei, where a man and a woman were washed away on Saturday.

Image source: Supplied/EMS


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