15 dead as stampede breaks out in Moroccan food aid crowd

Most of the victims are women and the elderly

FILE - A Thursday Oct. 19, 2017 file photo of Moroccan women filling up containers with water from a hose, in Zagora, southeastern Morocco. Experts blame poor choices in agriculture, growing populations and climate change for the water shortages in towns like Zagora, which has seen repeated protests for access to clean water in recent weeks. Moroccan state TV channel 2M reports that at least 15 people have died and 5 others have been injured in a stampede Sunday Nov. 19, 2017 as food aid was being distributed in the village of Sidi Boulalam, in the southern province of Essaouira. (AP Photo/Issam Oukhouya, File)
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At least 15 people have died and at least five have been injured in a stampede in Morocco while food aid was being handed out.

Most of the victims are women and the elderly, according to local media.

Pictures on social media showed bodies of women laid out on the ground.

It was initially reported that the aid had been donated by an unnamed charity, but other reports suggest that thousands had gathered to receive heavily subsidised flour.

Morocco has been suffering a severe drought which has impacted the country’s agricultural output. The cost of basic food has skyrocketed as a result.

The incident happened in the village of Sidi Boualem, about 150km (90 miles) south-west of Casablanca.

It has not been confirmed which organisation was distributing the food. Charitable aid is usually handed out by private sponsors or by the authorities.

Moroccan state TV channel 2M reports that at least 15 people have died and 5 others have been injured, although some estimates suggest that the number of injured may be as high as 40 people.

An unverified video shows a huge crowd of men and women gathering in an area with few buildings and a number of red flags, which appear to be the national flag of Morocco. The account who posted the video on YouTube wrote that the stampede occurred when “beneficiaries of social benefits” gathered in the suburbs of Essaouira.

The Moroccan Prime Minister has been forced to publically apologise over the country’s water shortage that has led to a number of hostile protests breaking out.

One angry protest led to the arrests of twenty-three people following confrontations with police over the taps in Morocco running dry.

Some water has been restored, but many claim is is almost undrinkable.

In 2009, a stampede at a music festival in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, resulted in the deaths of 11 people, including five women and two children.