Guelmim, Morocco: 80 Killed As Military Plane Crashes Into Mountainside: UPDATED

27 Jul

NEWS UPDATE:

Morocco country profile – Overview

Western Sahara profile

Seventy-eight people were killed when a Moroccan military aircraft crashed into a mountain in the south of the country, the army says.

The army said three other people were severely wounded in the crash, in what is thought to be one of Morocco’s deadliest air disasters in years.

The C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed near Guelmim, just north of the disputed Western Sahara territory.

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.

A local resident told Reuters news agency there was thick fog at the time of the crash.

National mourning

The plane was travelling from Dakhla, in the Western Sahara, to Kinitra in northern Morocco.

It crashed at about 09:00 (08:00 GMT) as it was attempting to make a scheduled stop at a military airbase some 10km (six miles) east of Guelmim.

It was carrying 81 people: nine crew members, 60 troops and 12 civilians.

Forty-two bodies have been found. The search continues for the others.

King Mohammed VI has declared three days of national mourning and ordered that prayers of remembrance be held on Friday in all mosques.

The king has also sent a message of condolence to the families of the victims.

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.

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A Moroccan military plane hit a mountainside near Guelmim in the south of the country, killing all 80 people aboard, a hospital source said.

The army earlier said 78 people were killed and three were rushed to hospital in serious condition after the Hercules C-130 crashed on the edge of the Sahara desert in Morocco’s worst military aviation disaster.

But a hospital source said two of the injured subsequently died.

A resident in the area said there was thick fog in the area at the time of the crash, which occurred at 9am (10am Irish time) some 730km south of Rabat.

‘The crash, due to bad weather conditions, caused 78 deaths and (left) three seriously wounded’, Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces said in a statement carried on the official MAP news agency.

The MAP news agency said that the plane had been travelling from the Western Saharan city of Dakhla and was due to travel on to Kenitra, 40km north of the capital, Rabat.

Morocco keeps the majority of its soldiers in Western Sahara.

NEWS UPDATE:

RABAT (Reuters) – At least 78 people were killed on Tuesday when a Moroccan military transport plane crashed into a mountain in the south of the country during bad weather, the military said in a statement carried by the state news agency.

The military said there were three injured survivors so far from the crash, which happened when a Hercules C-130 aircraft was trying to land in Guelmim, having flown north from the disputed Western Sahara territory.

The crash is Morocco’s worst known air disaster since 1973, when 105 people were killed after a Royal Air Maroc aircraft crashed near the capital Rabat.

A resident in the Guelmim area told Reuters there was thick fog in at the time of the crash, which occurred at 9 a.m.(0800 GMT) some 730 km (450 miles) south of Rabat.

“The crash, due to bad weather conditions, caused 78 deaths and (left) three seriously wounded,” Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces said in a statement carried on the official MAP news agency.

The military said 60 soldiers, 12 civilians and nine crew members were on board at the time of the crash.

The three survivors and 42 bodies recovered so far have been taken to the nearby military hospital, the military said.

In a letter addressed to relatives of the victims, King Mohammed — who heads the army — said he was “deeply moved by this painful accident,” according to MAP news agency.

The plane had been travelling from the Western Saharan city of Dakhla and was due to travel on to Kenitra, 40 km (25 miles) north of the capital, Rabat.

Morocco keeps the majority of its soldiers in Western Sahara, a territory that Rabat annexed in 1975.

The country’s most recent plane crash was in 1994 when all 44 passengers and crew members aboard a Royal Air Maroc aircraft died in a crash near the southwestern city of Agadir.

A government committee later said the Agadir crash was deliberately caused by the pilot.

(Editing by David Lewis

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