At least 22 young people, some of them as young as 13, were found dead inside a popular night club in the city of East London, South Africa.

The horrific incident took place at Enyobeni Tavern, in the Scenery Park township, early on Sunday morning, but the cause of the tragedy is not yet known. The South African Police Service (SAPS) has launched an investigation into the incident and said that it does not wish to speculate on the cause yet.

Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana told TV channel Newzroom Afrika: "The SAPS confirms an incident where people were found dead in a tavern in Scenery Park in the area of East London."

"We received this report in the early hours of Sunday. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation as we speak. We do not want to make any speculation at this stage, our investigation is continuing," he added.

The victims were found strewn across the floor; some were seated on chairs with no visible signs of injuries. Some local media reports have claimed that a gas leak at the tavern could have been responsible for the deaths, while a stampede has been ruled out as the cause of death.

"The scene I have seen inside, it doesn't matter what kind of a heart you have, you will be sad," police minister Bheki Cele said while describing the scene to News24.

Meanwhile, the bodies have been sent for post-mortem examinations, including toxicology tests. The families and relatives of the victims have not yet been given permission to see the bodies.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to families of the victims. "This tragedy is made even more grave by its occurrence during Youth Month - a time during which we advocate and advance opportunities for improved socio-economic conditions for the youth of our nation," he said in a tweet.

Mortuary. Representational image John Moore / Staff/ Getty