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Bus carrying young athletes collides with truck in Moroccan desert, 31 killed

A bus carrying a group of young athletes and government officials has crashed into a tanker truck in southern Morocco. Authorities have said that most of the victims were killed in the ensuing fire.

A head-on collision of a bus carrying a delegation of young athletes and a truck killed at least 31 people and injured a further 9 on Friday, according to local media.

A number of private media outlets reported the death toll to be even higher.

"A majority of the victims are children aged eight to 14," a regional official from the sports and youth ministry told AFP news agency.

"We have many completely carbonized bodies. Authorities have been in contact with the bus company to identify the victims," said Benmane Fadli, regional director of the transportation ministry.

Morocco state news agency MAP, quoting the authorities, reported that the crash took place just before sunrise at 7 a.m. in the Chbika district near the southern desert city of Tan-Tan. The bus apparently hit a tanker truck, which then burst into flames, consuming both vehicles.

The report said that the bus was carrying young athletes and officials from the Ministry of Youth and Sports who were involved in a national sports competition. A separate local newspaper, Les Ecos, wrote on its website that the group of youngsters were from the towns of Bouznika and from Laayoune, a city further to the south in the annexed Western Sahara territory.

According to Les Ecos newspaper, the celebrated 10-kilometer runner Hassan Issengar, 31, was among the casualties.

The bus was said to be heading from the capital, Rabat, to Laayoune.

Road accidents have been on the rise in Morocco as car ownership has nearly doubled in the last 15 years. Official statistics say an average of 10 people die every day from traffic accidents.

es/jil (AP, Reuters)