Plane Crash Kills 78 in Morocco

A plane crash in southern Morocco killed 78 people Tuesday, the state news agency reported.

The Moroccan C-130 military plane crashed in the southern part of the country, state-run Agence Maghreb Presse reported. The aircraft, belonging to Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces, crashed into a mountain as it attempted to land at a military airport about eight kilometres (five miles) away, the news agency said. Three other people were hurt.

The plane crashed at 9 a.m. (4 a.m. ET), 10 kilometres away from the city of Guelmim, just north of the disputed Western Sahara territory, the statement said. The plane was traveling from Dakhla, in the Western Sahara, to Kinitra in northern Morocco.

Officials have blamed the accident on poor weather. “Above all, it was the fog and bad weather conditions that are believed to be behind this accident. But for the moment, we don’t have enough information,” AFP news agency quoted an official from the interior ministry as saying. (BBC)

The plane was carrying 81 people – 60 military, 12 civilians and nine crew members, Agence Maghreb Arabe Presse reported, citing a military statement. Forty-two bodies have been found. The search continues for the other 120 bodies. Local news agency Lakome.com, citing sources with knowledge of the event, said rescue efforts were ongoing.

The mineral-rich, mainly desert territory of Western Sahara is the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front. Most of it has been under Moroccan control since 1976. U.N. peacekeepers have been there since 1991, and the U.N. has demanded a referendum but Morocco has instead proposed wide-ranging autonomy for estimated half a million people who live in Western Sahara’s sparsely populated desert flatland.

It is Morocco’s deadliest plane crash in years. In 1994, 44 people died when a Moroccan airliner crashed en route from the southern seaside resort of Agadir to Casablanca.

The Guelmim region features contrasting desert, oasis and mountain landscapes with their valleys and gorges, part of the so-called Anti-Atlas, an extension of the Atlas mountain chain that runs through Morocco. The region also features a coastal zone known as the “White Beaches of Guelmim” with the beach nearby in Tan Tan. (Washington Post)

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