Three high school pupils have drowned while trying to cross a river in Umlalazi, northern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) said

“The heavy rain has already claimed the lives of three teenagers who drowned while trying to cross the Matimofu River from Ndlongolwane school in uMlalazi,” said COGTA MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube.

“This is a tragedy, the likes of which we must all strive to prevent by heeding weather warnings.”

Nontethelelo Mcanyana, 18, Sinikiwe Mpanza, 17, and Zenande Gumede, 14, were coming from Ndlongolwane High School when the tragic incident took place, according to the department.

The bodies of the three teens have since been recovered and their families were also receiving support, the department said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

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The department urged residents of northern KZN to heed weather warnings about localised flooding due to incessant rain currently affecting the King Cetshwayo, uMkhanyakude and Zululand districts.

“In light of this tragedy, we are urging residents of the affected regions to stay away from all rivers and streams in their vicinity where localised flooding could occur.

“We are also warning motorists to drive carefully and avoid low-lying bridges in areas that are susceptible to flooding,” Dube-Ncube said.