Stampede kills 15 during food aid distribution in Morocco

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At least 15 women were killed in a stampede Sunday when hundreds of poor people gathered in western Morocco to receive food aid, local officials said. About 40 other women were injured, some of them seriously.

The incident happened in Sidi Boulaalam, a small town in Essaouira Province, where a private charity was handing out supplies to local residents. This year’s event attracted much larger crowds than usual as the region has been hit by persistent drought.

Morocco’s Interior Ministry confirmed that at least 15 people – all of them women aged 40 and older – were killed in the stampede. Video footage showed a chaotic scene as ambulances rushed about 40 women to hospital, where at least two were reported to be in a critical condition.

“This year there were lots of people, several hundred people,” a doctor who witnessed the stampede told AFP. “People shoved, they broke down the barriers … The local authorities on the spot were overwhelmed. Even when there were people on the ground, people kept fighting for food.”

Moroccan King Mohammed expressed his condolences and ordered local authorities to help those affected by Sunday’s tragedy. He also said he would personally pay all medical and funeral costs, according to the interior ministry.

Morocco has suffered persistent drought over the past few years, causing food and water shortages in parts of the kingdom. Extreme poverty also persists in remote parts of the country, with Sidi Boulaalam said to be one of the poorest villages in Morocco.

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