Five South Africans drown in baptism ritual

Five South Africans drowned after being swept out to sea by large waves during a baptism ritual, police have said.

Gugu Sabela, police spokesman, said the drownings occured at around midnight on Sunday in the port city of Durban during a baptism ceremony carried out by the New Corinthian Church.

Ms Sabela said after completing the ritual, one worshipper returned to the ocean, saying he was "overcome by the holy spirit".

When four of his fellow churchgoers went in after him, they were all swept away by the sea.

"The members tried to help each other out but they couldn't," she said.

A church leader told the Star newspaper the church had been conducting ocean baptisms since 1983 and it was the first time such a tragedy had occurred.