Page last updated at 00:22 GMT, Saturday, 20 February 2010

Dozens die in Morocco minaret collapse


The aftermath of the collapse of the minaret in Meknes, Morocco

At least 36 people were killed in Morocco when a minaret collapsed at a mosque in the central town of Meknes, officials say.

More than 60 people were injured in the accident at the Berdieyinne mosque in Meknes' old city during Friday prayers, according to Moroccan state television.

The TV report said that the collapse came after heavy rains which lashed the region for several days.

The minaret is said to have been four centuries old.

Map of Morocco

Many people are said to be buried under the rubble of the collapsed tower.

A resident, Khaled Rahmouni, told Reuters news agency that about 300 worshippers had gathered inside the mosque for Friday afternoon prayers.

"When the imam was about to start his sermon, the minaret fell down," he said.

Moroccan television added that the interior and religious affairs ministers had visited the site to supervise rescue operations.

The officials visited the injured, who had been taken to hospitals in Meknes and the nearby city of Fez.

Observers say that while neglected buildings in the old quarters of Morocco's cities collapse fairly often, the fall of a minaret is rare.

King Mohammed VI ordered the minaret to be rebuilt.

Meknes is on Unesco's world heritage list.

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