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49 Inmates Die Morocco Prison Fire

November 1, 2002

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RABAT, Morocco (AP) _ A fire erupted early Friday at an overcrowded prison, killing 49 inmates and seriously injuring at least eight other people, authorities said.

The fire started about 1:30 a.m. at the Sidi Moussa jail in coastal El Jadida, about 110 miles south of the capital city Rabat, the official MAP news agency said.

About 40 inmates were injured, some from smoke inhalation, in what was believed to be the worst fire ever at a Moroccan prison.

The injured were taken to the regional Mohammed V Hospital or to a burn unit in Casablanca, about 56 miles away, the news agency said.

Deputy Interior Minister Fouad Ali Al Himma told The Associated Press that the cause of the fire was not immediately known and that an investigation was under way. An earlier report said the cause was electrical nature.

The Atlantic Coast prison was built in 1994 for 1,000 prisoners but holds more than 1,300.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI expressed condolences to the families of the victims. Outgoing Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi and other Moroccan Cabinet ministers were traveling to the site to lead an inquiry into the fire and organize assistance for the families of the victims.

The fire was limited to one prison building, but smoke filled adjoining blocks, causing an unspecified number of inmates to die of asphyxiation, reports said. Others were killed while trying frantically to escape the fire.

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