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15 dead, 5 others injured in stampede for food aid in Morocco

A stampede in a southern Moroccan village has left at least 15 people dead and five others injured as food aid was being distributed, the Interior Ministry said.

The crush took place on Sunday in Sidi Boulalam in the province of Essaouira as a local association was distributing food aid in a local weekly “souk,” or market, the ministry said in a statement.

King Mohammed VI has given instructions that “all measures be taken to help the victims and their families,” the ministry added, noting that the king would pay for the hospitalization of the wounded and the burials of the dead.

Alyaoum24.com, a local news website, reported that people were rushing for food aid whose value was about $16 per person.

The mayor of the nearby city of Essaouira, Hicham Jbari, told The Associated Press that the tragedy’s victims had been transported to the city’s hospital. The village of Sidi Boulalam is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the city of Essaouira.

Distribution of food aid is common in the North African nation, notably in remote parts of the country, and is organized by private sponsors and groups as well as by the authorities.

Often held once a week in rural areas of Morocco, the souks are usually very busy places. People from nearby villages come to the markets to buy food and other items for a week.

A drought has badly hurt agricultural output in Morocco recently, contributing to the high cost of basic food items.

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