'Heartbroken': families seek justice after SA teen deaths

STORY: South African authorities say 21 teenagers found dead at an east coast tavern over the weekend were probably killed by something they ate, drank or smoked.

The as-yet unexplained deaths in the city of East London have shocked the nation and brought an outpouring of grief.

Some of the deceased were celebrating end of school exams, others a birthday party.

The youngest, according to police, was a 13-year-old girl.

Outside a prayer service Yandiswa Ngqoza, aunt to one of the teenagers, said her family is heartbroken.

“We lost one of our family members - a child who was doing grade 12 this year. We can’t accept it. We are one of the poorest families and as we are standing here right now we need justice because we don’t know what happened.”

Initial media reports had suggested a crush was a possible cause of death.

But Unathi Binqose, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape's provincial community safety department, said this had been ruled out "completely".

On Monday (June 27) he said it was "either something they ingested which will point to poisoning... or it is something they inhaled".

Authorities are expected to produce a toxicology report as part of the investigation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday (June 26) said he was worried about the circumstances in which young people were allowed to gather at the tavern.

It's illegal to serve drinks to under-18s in South Africa.

A spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Liquor Board said the premises in question had its liquor license revoked on Monday.