RABAT (Reuters) - At least 17 people died and 18 others were missing after heavy rain and floods struck southern Morocco over the weekend, destroying houses, vehicles and roads, authorities said on Monday.
Flooding, which is quite common in the mostly arid desert region at this time of year, has in the past triggered violent protests by local people angered by what they see as a tardy or ineffective official response.
State television channel 2M showed local residents expressing anger after their homes were submerged near the town of Errachidia. The prolonged closure of many national roads could trigger further angry protests, media said.
Morocco's King Mohamed has given orders to the authorities to take "all necessary emergency measures to help and support victims of the floods", a palace statement said.
"We have lost everything, everything. Now our families will sleep in the cold," said a woman in the Errachidia region, where around 60 houses had been destroyed. "Their (the authorities') previous programmes to restore our mud houses did not save us, our houses were just swept away" she told the 2M channel.
The army deployed helicopters to evacuate dozens of people, including some foreigners, in some areas threatened by rising river levels, the official news agency MAP reported. It said 13 of those killed as well as a majority of those missing were in the area of Guelmim, a desert town.
Local news websites showed floods sweeping away cars, tracks and roads in several regions, including Guelmim and Marrakesh. They said the death toll had reached 20 and could rise further.