Political unrest erupted in black townships throughout South Africa today, with six new deaths and extensive property damage reported.

In what appeared to be the worst single day of violence since the government declared a state of emergency 17 days ago in 36 cities and towns, incidents were reported in six urban areas. Since only two of the areas hit today are included in the declaration, the day's developments suggest that the scope of violence is spreading.

The worst violence was in the port city of Durban, where a police spokesman tonight said four black men had died in incidents of rioting in the city's black townships but gave no further details.

Earlier today, police reported an unidentified 15-month-old girl had died when her family's house on the outskirts of one of the townships was burned.

The sixth victim was an Asian delivery van driver, who died in a hospital today after being stoned by a mob last night. He was the first Asian victim since unrest began last September.

Arson, looting, stonings of vehicles and assaults that began yesterday continued through the night and daylight hours today.

Police reported using shotguns, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds throughout the day.

In other developments today that reflect South Africa's continuing political crisis:

*Winnie Mandela's lawyer announced the wife of imprisoned black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela is staying "in a safe place" following yesterday's police raid on her home in the Orange Free State. Attorney Ismail Ayob said Mrs. Mandela is not hiding from police but is staying away from the house because of his fear for her safety.

*Police announced 30 new arrests under the emergency declaration, bringing to 1,465 the number of persons detained since the decree took effect. More than one-third of that total -- 597 persons -- have since been released. Relatives of the 19 persons killed and 36 injured in the mass police shooting of black marchers in the city of Uitenhage last March instituted a lawsuit against police for $1 million damages. Their lawyer, in a letter notifying the national police commissioner of the suit, said police had opened fire "deliberately and indiscriminately" on unarmed mourners returning from a funeral.

*The treason trial of 16 United Democratic Front UDF members was adjourned until Monday by request of the state prosecutor, who said he needs time to consider defense objections to the indictment.

In other incidents, a crowd of youths hurling bottles and rocks fought with a small contingent of police outside the offices of the township manager of Umlazi.

The homes of two school principals in the township were also attacked. Schools throughout the townships were closed because of student boycotts.

At least 50 Indian families fled from their homes in the Asian township of Inanda after black rioters entered the area.

The scene inside several townships, as captured on videotape by foreign television crews, appeared to resemble a war zone. Streets were littered with the charred wrecks of cars and trucks, and dozens of shops and houses had been damaged and looted.

Officials had hoped the emergency proclamation, which granted broad arrest powers to police and soldiers, would break the momentum of the unrest. For the first two weeks, it appeared to do so. However, today's violence, which brought to at least 31 the number of dead since the emergency decree took effect, is further evidence that the proclamation has not solved the root causes of the unrest.

Until last week Durban had been spared most of the violence that has plagued black townships outside Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. Analysts credited much of the relative tranquility to the influence of Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, hereditary leader of South Africa's 6 million Zulus, and the strength of his Inkatha political movement among the predominately Zulu population of the townships.

The emergency declaration, which was designed to quell unrest that has taken 500 lives since last September, set off protests among activists in Durban and increased tensions there. Then came the execution-style murder by unknown assailants last Thursday night of Victoria Nxenge, a prominent civil rights lawyer closely connected to the antiapartheid United Democratic Front opposition movement.

By the weekend, protestors had hit the streets of the Durban townships, and the situation, fueled by local grievances, has intensified daily. The shooting death of a youth yesterday morning by a black policeman defending his house set off a new and angrier round of violence. It was aimed in large part at the offices and homes of blacks accused of collaborating with the white government.

In a statement issued tonight, Buthelezi blamed the new outbreak of unrest on "a certain political organization" -- presumably the UDF -- and on the outlawed African National Congress, which is the main black resistance movement fighting white rule. Both groups, he charged, "are promoting this black-on-black confrontation, as well as promoting a program of self-laceration, in having blacks burning down their own facilities."

Police also reported incidents of unrest in townships outside the cities of Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg and Witbank. At least eight persons were arrested.