Three people have died and nine others were injured during a stampede at Prophet Shepherd Bushiri's Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria on Friday night, Tshwane West police confirmed.
Spokesperson for the Tshwane West Cluster police, Captain Augustinah Selepe, said in a statement that the police only heard about the stampede on Saturday afternoon, and officers were immediately dispatched to the scene.
The church is situated at the Tshwane Events Centre in Pretoria.
According to Selepe, the police believe that a thunderstorm prompted the congregation to push each other around during a church service, leading to the stampede. The service began at around 20:00 on Friday night.
On Saturday morning Bushiri's attorney, Terrance Baloyi of Baloyi Ntsako Attorneys, told News24 that the stampede occurred when people tried to take shelter inside the church during a thunderstorm.
Baloyi said some people panicked and he confirmed that three people were knocked unconscious.
"We regret the incident as a church because it happened within our premises," Baloyi said at the time.
However, according to the police, the exact cause of the incident is still unconfirmed. Police have also requested that anyone with information about a missing person, who attended the church service, please contact the Pretoria West police station.
SAPS Tshwane West Cluster Commander Major General DT Mthombeni also urged the public to be cautious during the New Year's Day celebrations this week.
The police have asked the public to assist in creating a safe environment this week by cooperating with them, and warned that drunk and reckless driving will not be tolerated.
"We offer our most [sincere] condolence[s] to the families who lost their loved ones during the stampede, and speedy recovery to those injured," said Mthombeni.