Fifteen women have died and at least five more taken to hospital with injuries after a stampede broke out during food aid distribution in the Moroccan village of Sidi Boulaalam, local authorities and eyewitnesses have confirmed.
Flour was being handed out as part of an annual food drive by a wealthy local businessman at the market in the southwestern town, a statement from the interior ministry said on Sunday.
Several hundred people were present when the crush was triggered, a local doctor said.
“The local authorities on the spot were overwhelmed. Even when there were people on the ground, people kept fighting for food,” he told AFP news agency, putting the number of dead at ten women, with ten more injured.
The annual distribution has seen several stampedes in the past, local teacher and activist Manar Khouda said, adding that only four police officers had been on hand to supervise the delivery and movement of people.
According to local news website Medias 24, Sidi Boulaalam, 35 miles (69 kilometres) from the southwestern coastal resort town of Essouria, is one of the poorest villages in Morocco, and has been suffering from drought in recent months.
King Mohammed VI has said that the victims’ families will be given “any assistance they need”, the interior ministry said, and would personally cover medical bills, funeral and burial costs.
A criminal investigation into the incident has been opened.
Last year, a fishmonger in the northern town of Al-Hoceima was accidentally crushed to death by a rubbish truck after an altercation with police. He became the figurehead for protests against widespread government corruption and delays in development projects.
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