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Morocco crash bus overloaded – official

2012-09-06 11:47

Rabat - A bus that crashed into a ravine south of Marrakesh on Tuesday, killing 42 people, must have been overloaded and in a decrepit state, Morocco's transport minister said on Wednesday.

The "first two established findings" of the inquiry into the country's worst road accident indicated that there were 11 passengers too many on the bus, which was in "a poor state", Aziz Rebbah told the official MAP news agency.

He said a commission would investigate the last technical assessment of the vehicle, adding that the bus "should have been subjected to a road check before the accident".

The minister said poor road conditions had been excluded as a cause of the tragedy, which took place at night on the highest mountain pass in the country, which links the towns of Marrakesh and Ouarzazate and rises to 2 300m.

Only one accident took place on the same road between 2005 and 2011, he said, adding that the "human element" is behind some 80 percent of accidents on Moroccan roads.

The country was in mourning on Tuesday after the crash, when the bus plunged 150m into a ravine, after crossing the Tizi-n-Tichka pass, south of Marrakesh.

Another 25 people were injured, four of them seriously, according to a transport ministry official.

The largest bus categories are authorised to carry 48 and 54 people.

Morocco has a particularly poor road safety record, with accidents last year claiming around 4 200 lives, up by nearly 12% on 2010, according to the transport ministry.

Rebbah said a task force would be set up to look into ways of combatting road accidents, and with proposing "urgent and other structural measures" to alleviate the problem, according to MAP.

He said the government was already considering retiring a fleet of buses that did not meet certain technical criteria, and of increasing technical inspections at bus stations.