A fiery head-on collision between a semi-trailer truck and a bus carrying a delegation of young athletes in southern Morocco has killed at least 33 people and injured nine, according to the state news agency and local media reports.
The news agency quoted authorities as saying that the crash took place just before sunrise on Friday in the district of Chbika, near the southern desert city of Tan-Tan.
Reports said that celebrated 10-km runner Hassan Issengar, 31, was among the dead.
"A majority of the victims are children aged eight to 14," a regional official from the sports and youth ministry told AFP news agency.
The bus was heading from the capital Rabat to Laayoune in Western Sahara.
A video posted by the French-language economic daily L'Economiste showed the flaming wreckage of the tour bus, which caught fire after hitting what the newspaper identified as a tanker truck carrying hydrocarbons.
People wandered around the flaming frame of the bus — the truck has been flattened and apparently completely destroyed — in the middle of of the desert landscape.
According to details provided by the Le360.ma news site, the bus was carrying young athletes and officials from the Ministry of Youth and Sports that were involved in a national sports competition.
"It is a horrible accident. The toll is huge. The fire broke out when the bus and the truck collided and then it spread," social worker El Hassan Mouline told 2M state broadcaster, speaking from the scene.
He said the victims included children who were taking part in a sporting competition, a local athletics champion and an official from the sports and youth ministry.
"The whole team is lost," Mouline said.
News of the accident triggered panic and parents of children who were on the bus rushed to the hospital in the town of Guelmim, demanding the names of the victims, Medi1TV reported.
Although there are modern highways between the main cities, the rest of the country is served by two lane roads, often in poor condition and reckless driving habits, such as overtaking on curves, are quite common, AP news agency reported.
According to the World Health Organization, some 5,217 people died in 2010 from road accidents.
New stricter laws have been put in place, however, to make up for historically light enforcement of traffic rules.