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Minaret collapse kills at least 38

MEKNES, Morocco, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The collapse of a minaret during prayer services has killed at least 38 people and injured 71 more in the ancient city of Meknes, Morocco, officials said.

The minaret and part of the roof fell into the historic 18th century Bab Berdieyinne mosque when it was filled with worshippers, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

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Hundreds of people, some using shovels, some their bare hands, shoved aside rubble to reach those inside.

"Apart from the Friday prayers, the faithful were also offering funeral prayers for a deceased person whose body was inside the mosque," a local official told the Telegraph.

The city has suffered weeks of heavy rain, which may have contributed to the collapse, residents said.

The minaret of the mosque, built at the initiative of Morocco's first woman minister, Khnata Bent Bakkar, was one of the city's primary landmarks. Within hours of Friday's collapse, Morocco's King Mohammed VI ordered the minaret rebuilt.

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