A food distribution centre in the province of Essaouira was the site of a deadly stampede caused by currently unknown circumstances. Seventeen people were killed in the resultant crush and a further thirty-eight injured, with the public prosecutor’s office launching an immediate investigation into the cause of the stampede. The Interior Ministry is also launching its own administrative investigation. The majority of the victims were women, who account for fourteen of the dead. The remaining three were children.
Emergency services were quick to the scene, with numerous ambulances being scrambled to take the injured to the provincial hospital so they could receive critical care.
King Mohammed VI of Morocco urged the Government to “take all measures to provide the necessary support and assistance to the families of the victims and the injured” according to a source within the Interior Ministry. His Majesty will also be personally visiting the victims of the stampede and their families and has also declared that he would not only cover the costs for medical care received by those injured but also pay for any funeral expenses of the deceased. His Majesty hopes that this small gesture would help ease the suffering of those caught up in the tragedy.
The incident occurred around a food distribution centre arranged by a local philanthropist, who had organised for food to be delivered to the local communities. During distribution, the centre was overwhelmed by the sudden rush of people and was incapable of properly managing the sheer weight of numbers. The distribution of food is an annual occurrence within the market of Sidi Boulaalam. However, it seems that this year a much larger crowd than usual was attracted. As of yet, the donor has not been identified.
Although regarded as much wealthier and stable than its neighbours, enjoying a healthy economy and a large, well-educated populace, poverty is particularly rife in the more impoverished rural regions of the kingdom. Nearly 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, and 15.5% live on a mere $3 a day. Such food distribution can often mean the difference between life and death for some households.
King Mohammed has criticised his Government before during a speech this October, where he decried his ministers’ failings in ensuring proper socio-economic development.