Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Minaret falls during prayers in Morocco, killing 36

A minaret collapsed during prayers — killing 36 people and injuring 71 — at a crowded mosque in the old town of the historic Moroccan city of Meknes.

Officials yesterday blamed the accident on heavy rain that had weakened the minaret at the Bab Berdieyinne Mosque, according to a statement released by the Interior Ministry.

King Mohammed VI sent the interior minister and religious affairs minister to Meknes, a UNESCO heritage city and one of Morocco's four imperial cities, some 62 miles east of the capital Rabat.

The officials visited some of the injured at hospitals in Meknes. The more seriously injured were taken to hospitals in the nearby city of Fes. A team of psychologists also was sent.

The old town of Meknes is a pedestrian zone, which made rescue efforts more difficult.

MAP, citing official sources, said hospitals had already released 51 people, but were still treating 20 injured victims.

The king has ordered the reconstruction of the mosque, which was built four centuries ago under Sultan Moulay Ismail, who made Meknes his capital.

Heavy rain battered the city yesterday, and more rain has been forecast for the next week.