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Strange wave kills three swimmers, injures 17 on South African beach

The official says at least 17 people were hospitalized and in critical condition following a large wave in Durban’s Bay of Plenty.

A freak wave killed three swimmers and injured many others on a popular beach in the southeastern South African city of Durban, according to authorities.

Robert Mckenzie, a spokesman for KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services, said Saturday’s wave swept bathers out to sea in the Bay of Plenty, drowning at least three of them.

At least 17 others were injured and were “in serious or critical condition,” it added.

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The incident occurred at approximately 5:00 p.m. local time (3:00 p.m. GMT) on Saturday, according to a statement from the eThekwini municipality.

The office said 35 first responders were involved in the “massive rescue effort” and that paramedics treated more than 100 people trapped in the incident.

Among the dead was a teenager, he said.

The incident took place as Durban has been gradually reopening its beaches after lockdown due to high levels of E. coli bacteria coming from the city’s sewage system, which was badly damaged by deadly flooding earlier in the year.

The floods, the worst in living memory, killed more than 400 people in April.

Durban’s beaches are also bracing for an influx of visitors over the upcoming festive holidays, according to local media.

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The beach is crowded and there are some umbrellas and tents.  Durban city buildings can be seen as if in the mist in the background.
Revelers enjoy New Year’s Day on a beach in Durban, South Africa, on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2019. [File: Rogan Ward/Reuters]

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