Moroccan mosque minaret collapses, kills 38

RABAT, (Reuters) – A four centuries-old mosque  minaret collapsed in Morocco yesterday, killing at least 38  people and injuring more than 70 worshippers, hospital officials  and witnesses said.

“The number of dead reached at least 38. I have this death  toll from rescuers and doctors and officials at the hospital,”  parliamentarian Abdallah Bouanou, who is also a doctor, told  Reuters from the scene.

“I counted myself 13 dead. Their corpses were pulled out of  the rubble by rescuers,” he added.

Local civil defence commander Alaoui Ismaili said the rescue  operation was slow because of the narrow streets in the old city  medina district where the collapsed mosque minaret is located. “We are using only manpower, not equipment as we cannot  bring heavy equipment through these streets,” he said.

“We are moving with great cautiousness also because the  walls of houses and shops adjacent to the mosque are fragile  especially after the heavy rains of the past days,” said  Ismaili.

The state news agency MAP, citing an official provisional  toll, said 36 were killed and 71 more injured in the incident.

“About 300 worshippers gathered inside the mosque for the  Friday afternoon mass prayers. When the imam (preacher) was  about to start his sermon, the minaret went down,” Khaled  Rahmouni, whose home is near the mosque, told Reuters by  telephone.

The Lalla Khenata mosque minaret collapsed in the old Bab el  Bardiyine neighbourhood of Meknes, which is about 140 km (80  miles) southwest of Rabat.

Neglected old buildings in the old quarters of Morocco’s  cities collapse fairly often, but the fall of a minaret is rare.

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