Morocco has been hit by the worst flooding it has seen in decades, with violent rains leaving several dead and missing in Morocco on September 8. According to initial reports, 11 people were killed when a bus was overturned by floodwaters in the province of Errachidia in the south-east of the country. Since then, the death toll has increased to 17, with 29 injured, according to official authorities.
According to the Morocco Press Agency (MAP), the bus was travelling between Casablanca and Rissani at the time of the incident, which took place near the Oued Damchan bridge in El Khank.
Some of the injured passengers told Medi1TV: “We were on the road when, all of a sudden, we were surrounded by water.” One survivor recalled that “the bus couldn’t go forward or backward anymore, it just toppled over.” The driver of the bus checked himself in for treatment at a hospital in Errachidia on September 9, and was subjected to police questioning after he had been treated.
The incident was the fourth deadly, flood-related tragedy in Morocco in the past two months. On August 28, eight people were killed during flooding at a soccer match in the village of Tizert, Taroudant Province, in the region of Soussa-Massa. A special bulletin from the Directorate of Meteorology (DMN) from the day before the tragedy had alerted residents that there was a significant risk of flooding. Horrific footage was shared on social media, showing flash floods inundating the area where the match was being played.
Some of those who died were dragged away by the raging waters after taking refuge on top of a building, which collapsed under the force of the flood. One body was found some 20km (12 miles) from Tizert. As a result of the flooding, over 200 people have been displaced in Tata province. The Moroccan government said it would carry out an investigation into the tragedy in Tizert and added that it would take all necessary steps to avoid anything similar happening again.
Other incidents this year highlight the urgency of addressing the issue. In July, 15 people were killed in a landslide on a road to the south of Marrakech. On September 1, heavy rain caused massive landslides and debris flows in Imlil in the Atlas Mountains, causing significant damage to property. The next day, two more people were killed after torrential rain and flooding.
While floods are fairly common in Morocco—around 50 people were killed as a result of flooding in 2014 alone—the problem has become increasingly serious in recent years, with many attributing such freak weather conditions to human-made climate change.
According to the World Bank, 263 people were killed as a result of 13 major floods in Morocco between 2000 and 2013.
According to the World Bank, 263 people were killed as a result of 13 major floods in Morocco between 2000 and 2013, with some $427 million worth of damage caused to infrastructure. A report published in 2016 by the Royal Institute for Strategic Studies (IRES) in Morocco pointed to multiple failures in infrastructure maintenance, prevention, warning and emergency management. According to the report, “the floods will affect nearly 21,000 people a year by 2030.”
The alarming nature of such reports has led to criticism of the Moroccan government’s response to the proliferation of natural disasters in recent years. These criticisms particularly relate to the government’s alleged failure to protect the Amazigh (Berber) community, which faces a disproportionate risk from flooding and other natural disasters. Ministers stand accused of failing to live up to the standards demanded by King Mohammed VI, who in July used his speech marking the 20th anniversary of his rule to call for public officials to do their duty to serve the people of Morocco.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Algeria, one person is missing, feared dead, following floods in Bechar, on September 7. As reported by the Algeria Press Service (APS), torrential flooding also overran the town of Beni-Ounif, which lies around 100km (65 miles) north of Bechar, on the border with Morocco. Earlier in September, the Algerian city of Skikda saw rainfall of 127mm (5 inches), four times the monthly average for September. Around 40 people have been rescued from their homes due to flooding this month in the north of Algeria.
Morocco is one of only a handful of countries to regularly meet its requirements under the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate matters.
Morocco is a country that punches above its weight on the likely cause of the disastrous flooding in the country—namely climate change. Under the stewardship of organizations such as The Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN), the North African Kingdom is one of only a handful of countries to regularly meet its requirements under the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate matters.
Yet observers lament the Moroccan government’s inaction in combating the results of the unfolding climate disaster. Regardless of where the blame eventually falls over this issue, Moroccans are calling for swift institutional change to ensure that such tragedies do not happen again.