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Morocco bus crash kills 31, including 20 young athletes among victims

The coach, carrying schoolchildren returning from a sports competition, collided head-on with a petrol tanker
An image from the site of the crash shows a coach that was involved in a head-on collision with an oil tanker (Twitter/@azrounet)

A bus crash in Morocco killed at least 31 people on Friday, many of them young athletes and former sports stars returning from a national competition.

At least 20 of the dead were school students who had participated in a national sports competition in the Moroccan city of Benslimane on Thursday, according to local news site Le 360.

Nine people were also seriously injured in a head-on collision between a coach and a lorry near the southern Moroccan town of Tan-Tan.

The accident happened on the road that connects the Moroccan capital Rabat with Laayoune, the capital of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.

A petrol tanker was involved in the head-on collision at around 07:00 local time with the coach, and both vehicles caught fire after the accident.

Among the dead was Mohammed Isenkar, a retired champion runner who represented Morocco at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, coming ninth in the 5,000-metre race.

Nezha Bidouane, a retired Moroccan hurdler who had known Isenkar since the 1980s, said he was “like a brother to everyone”.

“His education and his morality were remarkable,” she told local news site al-Yaoum 24.

Morocco’s Interior Ministry has said it will hold an urgent meeting in the wake of the accident, and will publish the names of all the victims once their families have been informed.

Road accidents have risen sharply in Morocco in recent years, with car ownership nearly doubling in the past 15 years.

Traffic incidents tend to peak between May and August of each year.

An average of 10 people a day are killed in accidents on Morocco’s roads, according to official statistics.

Morocco’s Transport Ministry has indicated that the social costs relating to road deaths and accidents amounts to some 2.5 percent of the country’s GDP.

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