A 18th century mosque minaret collapsed in Morocco on Friday, killing at least has killed at least 40 people, injuring 71 others, hospital officials and eyewitnesses said.
Up to 80 people were trapped under the rubble and soldiers were working to reach them, said Khaled Rahmouni, a resident in the town of Meknes where the mosque collapsed.
"About 300 worshippers gathered inside the mosque for the Friday afternoon mass prayers. When the imam (preacher) was about to start his sermon, the minaret went down," he told Reuters by telephone.
Earlier, hospital officials said two people had died and more than 40 were injured.
The Lalla Khenata mosque minaret collapsed in the old Bab el Bardiyine neighbourhood of Meknes, which is about 140 km (80 miles) southwest of Rabat, Reuters said.
The 18-century mosque was packed with worshippers during Friday prayers at the time of the collapse, and local officials have warned the toll could continue to mount.
Many locals blamed the tragedy on heavy rains that lashed the region in the previous days.
Rescuers worked with shovels -- and some with their bare hands -- while others formed human chains to carry away rubble from the site of the disaster.
Fes, the "spiritual capital" of the kingdom located 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of the town. Those less seriously hurt were taken for treatment in Meknes itself.sent the most seriously injured to hospital in
Theand the minister of religious affairs rushed to the site to supervise rescue operations.
Emergency workers also set up a team to offer psychological support to those traumatised by the disaster.
Bab Berdieyinne mosque was built at the initiative of the country's first woman minister, Khnata Bent Bakkar.