A senior policeman talks to refugees after a xenophobic attack in Durban on Wednesday. Most of the 250 victims of the latest outbreak of xenophobic violence at Isipingo, south of the Indian Ocean city, come from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Picture: AFP PHOTO/RAJESH JANTILAL
A senior policeman talks to refugees after a xenophobic attack in Durban this week. Most of the nearly 500 victims of the latest outbreak of xenophobic violence at Isipingo, south of the Indian Ocean city, come from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe. Picture: AFP PHOTO/RAJESH JANTILAL

AT LEAST three foreign nationals, and possibly several more, died in a wave of suspected xenophobic violence that swept through Durban and surrounding areas on Thursday.

The deaths were reported in Chatsworth and Umlazi. Elsewhere in Durban, the police found several bodies, but it is unclear whether they are of foreign nationals or South Africans.

A police spokesman confirmed that murder cases had been opened. Several arrests had been made and charges of looting and assault would be brought.

A Somali shopkeeper is fighting for his life after he was shot in the chest in KwaMakhutha, south of Durban. The man was rescued by the police from youngsters who are said to have looted his shop, and rushed to a local hospital.

The police had their hands full on Thursday. Scores of residents are said to have gone on a looting rampage at foreign nationals’ shops.

Police spokesman Major Thulani Zwane said: "We don’t know how many foreigners have been killed so far but ... cases of murder have been opened.

"We are still collating information from ... police stations."

In Isipingo and in townships, businesses owned by foreign nationals were closed on Thursday.

Panic-stricken foreign nationals fear the worst. Zimbabwean Grace Ncube, who is among nearly 500 who fled to a temporary camp in Chatsworth’s Arena Park sports grounds, said she could not eat because she still did not know if her brother was alive.