Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Moroccan News Briefs #71 -Updated

42 Dead in horror crash

At least 42 people were killed Tuesday when a bus travelling between Marrakesh and Ouarzazate in southern Morocco plunged into a ravine, a security official said.

All the victims were Moroccan, a local official told AFP. "But we are still in the process of identifying the bodies, as well as the injured," he added. The accident took place when the vehicle left a main road in Haouz province, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Marrakesh, one of Morocco's top tourist destinations.

The crash also left some 25 people injured, who were taken to different hospitals in the region, according to a local official.

Moroccan rescuers with the body of a passenger who was killed in the crash near Marrakesh Photo: AFP

The MAP news agency, which said the bus fell 150 metres (165 yards), gave the same death toll of 42, saying that five of the victims died in hospital, and that 24 people were injured in the crash, four of them critically.

King Mohammed VI expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, in a palace statement, and announced that he would pay for their transport, funeral and burial costs.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. But the bus, with 67 people on board, was evidently overloaded, a source at the ministry of transport said, with the largest bus category in Morocco authorised to carry 54 people.

An official in Haouz province said an inquiry had been launched and a crisis group set up. The provincial governor, Younes El Bathaoui, arrived at the site of the crash to supervise the rescue operation, according to MAP.

The tragedy occurred as the bus was heading towards Marrakesh, after crossing the Tizi-n-Tichka pass, the highest in Morocco. The road, linking the central Moroccan city with the Sahara gateway town of Ouarzazate, winds through the mountains for dozens of kilometres.

It was the worst bus crash recorded in Morocco, which has a poor road safety record. In November 2010, 24 people drowned when a bus carrying workmen tumbled into a river near the capital Rabat.

Moroccan immigrants evicted from islet

Spanish security forces launched a night operation lasting into the early hours Tuesday to evict 73 immigrants from a tiny islet just off Morocco, officials said. Spain's Guardia Civil police acted after scores of immigrants landed in the past week on the bare, rocky surface of Isla de Tierra, which lies an easy swim off the beach and is about as long as two football pitches.

Spanish police guard Moroccan immigrants

Since the uninhabited rock is claimed by Spain to be sovereign territory, Spain feared it could open a new doorway to immigrants desperate to reach Europe and escape poverty and unrest.

"The Spanish Guardia Civil evicted them," a Spanish interior ministry spokesman said. "Many of the immigrants did not want to go Morocco, but there was no need to use force nor any troubles," the spokesman said. Sea conditions had calmed, allowing Spain to move in, he said. The operation was completed at 4.30 am (0230 GMT).

Before the 73 were evicted, Spain's Guardia Civil had already moved 10 women and children off the islet to the Spanish occupied territory of Melilla, he said.

Melilla and Ceuta are two tiny Spanish exclaves in Morocco, the only land frontier between Africa and Europe. Morocco considers Ceuta and Melilla, held by Spain since 1580 and 1496, to be "occupied". Madrid refuses any discussion on the subject, which regularly poisons relations between the two nations.

Banned Morocco ruling party ceremony goes ahead

The closing ceremony of a youth congress for Morocco's ruling party went ahead in Tangier on Sunday despite being banned for security reasons.

Two members of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) party walk past a PJD campaign poster (Photo: Abdelhak Senna)

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane attended the conference of his Justice and Development Party (PJD), urging delegates to "continue to campaign" in the face of challenges, said the PJD's Abdelaziz Rebah, who is also transport minister.

"The closing ceremony which was to have been held outdoors in a small square of Tangier was transferred to a covered room to allow thousands of youths to follow its progress," Rebah told AFP. "Its transfer was motivated strictly by security measures and not for political reasons. Police had feared excesses given the large number of participants," he said.

At the closing ceremony, Benkirane called on the youths "to continue to campaign for the national fundamentals, which are Islam, the unity of the country and the monarchy. We must continue our efforts to meet the challenges and crisis. Despite this crisis, we must be optimistic," said the prime minister.

PJD delegate Abdelaziz Aftati had described Saturday's move to ban the ceremony as a "humiliation for our party," adding that "we must not stand by with our arms folded." Another senior party member, Abdelali Hami al-Din, had said the authorities' decision to halt the event was taken in "revenge for the work of the conference."

More than 2,000 young people had gathered in Tangier, where several speakers had criticised the king's entourage, accusing it of "being the shadow government," according to participants.

In a statement released on Monday, the Ministry said  "the decision to prohibit or allow such events in public places is the prerogative of local authorities, who have full authority to evaluate the local security situation and make the decision that they deem appropriate."

The statement said local authorities have taken the decision to ban the event "after they have found, on the basis of a set of data, the organization of such events under the above conditions could cause quarrels between supporters of political parties running for the next parliamentary by-elections, which is likely to undermine the public order."

Moving the venue appears to have been a sensible compromise.

Moroccan Census reveals over 27,000 TB cases

Tuberculosis is a serious respiratory diseases caused by lack of human resources. The Moroccan Ministry of Health recognizes that tuberculosis is the most common infectious disease in Morocco. More than 27 thousand new cases were recorded last year, while the highest rate of infection is recorded in Casablanca with 161 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants, which places Morocco seventh globally.

Moroccans feel the fiscal pinch

81.8% of households feel unable to save. A recent survey by the Haut Commissariat au Plan (HCP) has revealed that Moroccan households expect a decline in their standard of living. According to the survey of HCP, 81.8% of Moroccan households feel they will have a tough time over the next 12 months. 57.9% of households report their expenditures will have to be cut back, 36.6% expect to go into debt and only 5.5% reported savings. For the purchase of durable goods, 57.8% of households believe that now is not the time to buy while 20.4% disagreed.

Coming up on the art and culture front

The European Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals will be held in Agadir from 20 to 23 September. This is the annual meeting of the European Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals (EFWMF). The aim is to formulate a set of standard festival ethics. It is the first time that the annual meeting of the largest federation of world music festivals has been held in southern Morocco.

"Autumn Lights" an exhibition of art from 22 September to Marrakech. "Autumn Lights" is the theme of an exhibition held from 22 September to 22 October in Marrakech, with the participation of Moroccan and French artists. To be staged at the Palmeraie Museum, this exhibition will display work ​​by six artists, including El Houssaine Mimouni .

Argentina will be the guest of honor at the International Film Festival of Salé Women from 17 to 22 September. This is the 6th edition of the International Film Festival of Salé Women. Twelve feature films produced between 2011 and 2012 dealing with the theme of women are selected in the official competition of this year. The jury will be chaired by Indian Aruna Vasudev, founder of the annual festival of Asian Cinema in New Delhi. The festival is organised by the Bouregreg Association.


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