At least 24 dead in Morocco underground factory flood

Heavy rain flooded an illegal underground textile workshop in a private house in Morocco's port of Tangiers


AFP February 08, 2021
PHOTO: AFP

At least 24 people died after heavy rain flooded an illegal underground textile workshop in a private house in Morocco's port of Tangiers, the state news agency reported Monday.

Rescue workers recovered 24 bodies from the property and rescued 10 survivors, who were taken to hospital, the MAP agency said, citing local authorities. A search of the premises was ongoing.

One government official at the scene said 25 people had died, 17 women and eight men, all aged between 20 and 40, according to a local journalist contacted by AFP.

News footage broadcast from the site on Moroccan television showed emergency services carrying corpses out on stretchers under the eyes of traumatised residents, with a stream of ambulances rushing to the residential district in the northern city.

Workers were saved thanks to a local resident who helped them out of the flooded basement with a rope, according to the journalist contacted by AFP, who spoke to witnesses.

Local media outlets indicated at least some of the victims may have been electrocuted as the incoming water interfered with power facilities, but this had not been confirmed by the officials.

A inquiry has been launched to determine the cause of the accident and those responsible, the MAP agency added.

Morocco's informal sector plays a key role in the economy, representing around a fifth of GDP outside the primary sector, with textile production making up a tenth of that work.

In terms of textile and leather production, over half of the work comes from informal operations, including in unregulated factories that fail to meet official safety standards, according to Morocco's employers' association.

Morocco has experienced heavy rains in recent weeks, after a long period of drought.

In early January, rain storms caused several dilapidated buildings to collapse in Casablanca, the country's economic capital, causing at least four deaths, according to local media.

Poorly maintained drainage systems often exacerbate flooding in Morocco's cities.

Fifty people died in floods in 2014 caused by heavy rains in the south of the kingdom.

In September 2019, 24 passengers on a bus were killed when they were caught in a flash flood on a dry river bed in the southeastern Errachidia region.

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