At least 22 people have been found dead in a nightclub in South Africa's city of East London as police investigate the cause of the incident.

The victims were aged between 18 and 20 years.
The victims were aged between 18 and 20 years. (Reuters Archive)

At least 22 young people have been found dead at a nightclub in a township in South Africa's southern city of East London, police have said.

The bodies will be transported to state mortuaries where relatives are expected to help identify both male and female victims, Siyanda Manana, a spokesperson for the Eastern Cape provincial health department, said on Sunday.

"We are going to immediately be embarking on autopsies so we can know the probable cause of death, " he said as forensic personnel continued their work at the cordoned-off crime site at Enyobeni Tavern.

"We are talking 22 bodies right now," Manana added.

The victims were aged between 18 and 20 years.

The provincial community and safety department official Unathi Binqose, speaking from the scene, ruled out a stampede as the cause of death.

"It's difficult to believe it's a stampede as there are no visible open wounds to those dead," Binqose said.

A local newspaper website, DispatchLive, reported that "bodies are lying strewn across tables, chairs and on the floor; with no obvious signs of injury".

Unverified pictures shared on social media showed bodies with no visible signs of injuries, strewn on the floor of the club.

Local television showed police officers trying to calm down a crowd of people gathered outside the club in the city, which lies on the Indian Ocean coast, nearly 1,000 kilometres south of Johannesburg.

READ MORE: ‘Crypto Continent’: The rise of African blockchain startups

READ MORE: UN climate report shines spotlight on Africa's clean energy potential

Source: TRTWorld and agencies