Morocco bus crash leaves many dead

Wrecked bus lies in the ravine. 4 Sept 2012
Image caption The bus was almost totally destroyed in the accident

At least 42 people died when a bus plunged into a ravine in southern Morocco, officials say.

More than 20 others are reported to have been injured, some seriously.

The bus, travelling between the cities of Marrakesh and Zagora, left the road near the town of Zerkten in Haouz province and fell 150m (490ft), local officials said.

Most of the passengers are believed to be Moroccan. It is not clear if any foreigners are among the casualties.

"We are still in the process of identifying the bodies, as well as the injured," a local official told AFP news agency.

The accident happened in a mountainous area in the early hours of Tuesday, the official news agency Map reported. The cause is not yet known but an official in Haouz said an inquiry had been launched.

At least 24 people were said to be injured, 21 of whom were taken to a hospital in Marrakesh and the rest to a hospital in nearby Ouarzazate.

In a palace statement, King Mohammed VI offered his condolences to families of the victims and said he would pay for their transport, funeral and burial costs.

In July, two separate bus crashes in Morocco killed 26 people.

More than 4,000 people died in road accidents in Morocco last year, according to the transport ministry - an increase of 11.6% on the previous year.