Monday 23 September 2019

Seven killed as flash flood washes over football match

The incident occurred in Tizert, Morocco.

(Mohamed Amerkad/AP)
(Mohamed Amerkad/AP)

By Amira El Masaiti, Associated Press

A flash flood swept across a football pitch in a southern Moroccan village, killing at least seven people watching a local match, the official MAP news agency has said.

Heavy rain caused a nearby river to swell on Wednesday, pushing torrents of water over the field in Tizert, in the Taroudant region, where an amateur match was being played.

Spectators scrambled for their lives, some climbing on roofs, but at least seven people died, including a 17-year-old boy, MAP reported. An elderly man was injured.

Government spokesman Mostapha El Khalfi said the dead include one person whose body is still missing. He said the government is set to take flood-control measures to better handle adverse weather conditions.

An official investigation has been opened.

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People dig graves during a funeral for the victims (Mohamed Amerkad/AP)

Among the victims was recently married Hanafi Hilali, 35, who sought refuge on top of a dressing room but was swept away by the raging waters, his brother Mohamed told the Associated Press.

The two had become trapped on the field, but Mohammed raced to rescue his son and his cousin, both young children.

“What happened was horrific, shocking. I could not return to rescue my brother,” he said, weeping as he recounted the scene.

Ahmad Afif, organiser of the game, said he was on the roof of the changing rooms alongside dozens of other fans when they received phone calls from a nearby village warning them of the flooding river.

“We were actually excited. The river didn’t fill up for decades and we wanted to capture it in videos. As we were filming, some of us realised that the river was actually very strong and could lead to damages and so they fled to safety. Those who remained got swept away by it.”

Mr Afif was one of those who had fled to a safe place away from the river, but near enough to see those he left behind struggle for their lives.

“We saw our brothers, our sons, our cousins dying. They were screaming at us for help, looking at us in desperation, but we couldn’t do anything to help.”

Morocco’s national weather service had warned of the risks of bad weather in several regions.

Heavy rain in remote regions of the North African kingdom left 15 people dead in July. Their van was buried under 65ft of earth in a landslide triggered by rain on a route south of Marrakesh.

PA Media

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