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Powerful Earthquake Hits Morocco, 296 Persons Feared Killed

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A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 has hit Morocco, killing at least 296 people, injuring more than 150, damaging buildings and sending local people fleeing into the streets for safety.

Morocco’s Interior Ministry said early on Saturday that the reported number of dead and injured was a preliminary figure.

“According to a provisional report, the earthquake killed 296 people in the provinces and municipalities of Al Haouz, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 153 people were injured and hospitalised.

The earthquake hit shortly after 11pm local time (22:00 GMT) on Friday evening, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS estimates that the epicentre of the quake occurred in the Atlas Mountains, some 75km (44 miles) from Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in the country.

The epicentre of the quake was near the mountain town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, roughly 70km (43.5 miles) south of Marrakesh.

Local media reported that roads leading to the mountain region around the epicentre were jammed with vehicles and blocked with collapsed rocks, slowing rescue efforts.

Abderrahim Ait Daoud, the head of a town in the area, told the Moroccan news site 2M that several homes nearby had partly or totally collapsed, and electricity and roads were cut off in some places.

He also said that authorities were working to clear roads in Al Haouz province to allow passage for ambulances and aid to populations affected. Large distances between mountain villages mean it will take time to learn the full extent of the damage, he added.

Moroccans posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust, and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakesh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, damaged. Tourists and others posted videos of people screaming and evacuating restaurants in the city. Shocked residents in Marrakesh and Casablanca fled out of buildings and onto the streets for safety.

One Marrakesh resident, Brahim Himmi, told the Reuters news agency that he spotted ambulances leaving the city’s historic old town. He also said that building facades had been damaged as the earth shook.”

While earthquakes in the region are “uncommon but not unexpected”, one of this magnitude has not been seen in the immediate area in over 120 years.

“Since 1900, there have been no earthquakes M6 [magnitude 6] or larger within 500km of this earthquake, and only nine M5 [magnitude 5] and larger,” the USGS said on its website.

Most of those previous earthquakes occurred further to the east as well, the agency added.

Friday evening’s earthquake was a relatively shallow one, occurring at a depth of 18.5km (11.5 miles). The USGS explained that “oblique-reverse faulting” in the Atlas Mountains was the cause of the quake.

The last major earthquake to strike Morocco occurred in 2004, killing over 600 people. That quake, dubbed the Al Hoceima earthquake, was positioned on an active plate boundary on the country’s northernmost coast, bordering the western Mediterranean Sea. It clocked in at a magnitude of 6.3.

An even larger quake struck neighbouring Algeria in 1980. Known as the El Asnam earthquake, the 7.3-magnitude event was the strongest seismic activity the region had seen in centuries. Also originating in the Atlas Mountain range, it levelled houses, leaving 300,000 people on the street and over 2,600 people dead.

Aljazeera

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Africa

Senegal’s New Govt Cuts Prices of Essential Commodities

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The President Bassirou Diomaye Faye-led government of Senegal has reduced the prices of some essential commodities in the country.

The reductions, which also cover cement and fertiliser, will take effect in the next few days, government secretary general Ahmadou Al Aminou Lo told reporters.

President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who was swept to power in a March election, vowed during the campaign to address high living costs in the West African nation that heavily relies on imports.

The issue has featured widely in the media and on social media in recent weeks, with many saying it is a priority.

Under the measures, the price of a kilo (2.2 pounds) of the most widely consumed type of rice will be reduced by 40 CFA ($0.065, 0.061 euros), while a baguette will cost 15 CFA (0.023 euros) less, the government announced at a media conference.

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Malawi’s Vice President, Nine Others Confirmed Dead in Plane Crash

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Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine other people died when the small military plane they were traveling in crashed in bad weather in a mountainous region in the north of the country, the president said Tuesday. Chilima was 51.

President Lazarus Chakwera announced that the wreckage of the plane that went missing Monday morning had been located after a search of more than 24 hours in thick forests and hilly terrain near the city of Mzuzu. He said the wreckage was found near a hill and the plane had been “completely destroyed,” with everyone killed on impact.

It was a “terrible tragedy,” Chakwera said. “Words cannot describe how heartbreaking this is, and I can only imagine how much pain and anguish you all must be feeling.” He called Chilima “a good man, a devoted father and husband, a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction and a formidable vice president.”

Chakwera said the victims’ remains were being brought to the southern African nation’s capital, Lilongwe. The seven passengers included members of Chilima’s staff and security detail along with former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former President Bakili Muluzi. There were three crew members.

Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and forest rangers had searched for the plane since it went missing Monday at around 10 a.m. while making the 45-minute flight from Lilongwe to Mzuzu, around 370 kilometers (230 miles) to the north.

The group was traveling to attend the funeral of a former government minister. Air traffic controllers told the plane not to attempt a landing at Mzuzu’s airport because of bad weather and poor visibility and asked it to turn back to Lilongwe. Air traffic control then lost contact with the aircraft and it disappeared from radar.

Chakwera said the wreckage was found in the Chikangawa Forest south of Mzuzu. Images from the site showed thick fog over the hills and remnants of the plane in an open area near the tree line. The president described the aircraft as a small, propeller-driven plane operated by the Malawian armed forces.

Officials with Chilima’s United Transformation Movement political party — a party different from the president’s — criticized the government response as slow and said there was no transponder on the plane, concerning for an aircraft carrying a high-level delegation.

Chilima and Chakwera had led Malawi under unusual circumstances. They both ran for president in 2019 as opposition candidates but teamed up to challenge election results in court over irregularities, and won. They then won the rerun of the election – the first time in Africa that a court-overturned election result resulted in a defeat for the incumbent president.

Chilima had said Chakwera had agreed to step down after his first term and allow him to run for president in next year’s election as part of their alliance. However, Chakwera announced he would run for reelection, and there were signs of friction between the two.

Chilima also had recently faced corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government procurement contracts for the armed forces and the police. Prosecutors dropped the charges last month. He had denied the allegations.

Chilima had just returned from an official visit to South Korea on Sunday. He was in his second term as vice president after serving from 2014-2019 under former President Peter Mutharika.

The search for the plane prompted an international response. Chakwera said the U.S., the U.K., Norway and Israel had offered assistance and provided “specialized technologies.” The U.S. Embassy in Malawi said it had assisted and offered the use of a Department of Defense small C-12 plane. Malawi also asked neighbors Zambia and Tanzania if they could help.

Malawi, a country of around 21 million people, was ranked as the fourth poorest nation in the world by the World Bank in 2019.

AP

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Info Analytics Poll: Mahama Gaps Bawumia by 20% Votes

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With nine months before the next General election in Ghana, the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr. John Dramani Mahama, is commanding a 20 per cent lead over his closest rival, Dr. Mahamudu Bawunia of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).

This was revealed in a new poll conducted by research agency, Global Info Analytics.

The poll show that over 50 per cent of Ghanaians has expressed interest to vote Mahama as against nearly 35 per cent for the incumbent vice president.

Other candidates in the election shared the remaining percentage of a little over 15 per cent.

The Ghana election is expected to hold on December 7.

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