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Casablanca buildings collapse: Death toll revised

14 July 2014, 06:37

Casablanca - The death toll after three buildings collapsed in Morocco's largest city and commercial capital Casablanca rose to 16 on Sunday, officials said.

It initially was thought that more than 30 people had died.

Seven more bodies were recovered from the rubble during the day, including two children and Moroccan actress Amal Maarouf and her mother, they said, quoted by the MAP news agency, updating an earlier tally.

A 16th body was later pulled from the debris, an official told AFP, on condition of anonymity. A provisional toll on Saturday spoke of eight dead.

News website Yibiladi said the actress had continued to respond to calls on her mobile phone for several hours after the calamity, but did not elaborate.

Medics said on Sunday that 17 people were still being treated in hospital, while authorities warned of more buried bodies.

Other officials warned that the toll could rise further because more people were feared trapped in the rubble.

Rescue operations were temporarily suspended on Sunday afternoon as emergency teams sought more sophisticated equipment, sparking anger from relatives of the missing.

By evening the site had been cordoned off and the media barred, drawing criticism in the media.

"Search for bodies suspended, equipment deficient. Three days to notice it," the Economist newspaper scoffed in a post on its Internet site.

It was still not known why the three apartment blocks in El-Hank district collapsed.

Residents told AFP said the accident probably resulted from "haphazard works" on the lower floors of the buildings, as well as a general lack of maintenance.

An official inquiry has begun, and the residents of three adjoining buildings have been evacuated as a precaution.

Firemen managed to rescue at least 55 people, including six children, after the apartment blocks crumpled.

King Mohamed VI, who happened to be in the city at the time, visited the scene of the disaster and the injured in hospital.

Casablanca has a population of around five million, with many living in squalid conditions in sprawling slums, some exposed to serious safety hazards.

Two people died at the end of 2012 when a building came down after bad weather.

The housing minister said at the time that between 4 000 and 7 000 buildings in Casablanca were at risk of collapse.



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