Illustrative image. Image Credit: iStockphoto

RABAT:   A minibus carrying market-goers in Morocco plunged into a ravine on Sunday, killing 24 people in one of the North African country's worst-ever road accidents, officials said.

The passengers were travelling a mountainous route to a weekly market in the town of Demnate, in the central province of Azilal, when the minibus overturned on a bend, the local authorities said.

Images on public broadcaster 2M showed the vehicle crushed at the bottom of the ravine.

"All the passengers are dead," Youssef Makhloufi, director of the Demnate hospital, told 2M, which reported that at least two women and a child were among the victims.

Local authorities said an investigation has begun.

Accidents are frequent on the roads of Morocco and other North African countries, which see thousands of road deaths annually.

Eleven people, mostly agricultural workers, died in March when their minibus slammed into a tree after the driver lost control in the rural town of Brachoua, local officials said at the time.

Many poorer citizens use coaches and minibuses to travel in rural areas.

In August last year, 23 people were killed and 36 injured when their bus overturned on a bend east of Morocco's economic capital Casablanca.

An average of 3,500 road deaths and 12,000 injuries are recorded annually in Morocco, according to the National Road Safety Agency, with an average of 10 deaths per day.

The figure last year was around 3,200.

Authorities have set out to halve the mortality rate by 2026 ever since the worst bus accident in the country's history left 42 dead in 2012.

In neighbouring Algeria, 34 people were killed on July 19 when a passenger bus collided head-on with a pickup truck carrying fuel cans and burst into flames, deep in the southern Sahara region, officials said.

Algeria's deadliest road crash in years also left 12 others injured, many with severe burns, Algeria's civil defence agency said.

One of Tunisia's worst road accidents occurred in 2019 when a bus plunged into a ravine, killing at least 24 Tunisians and injuring 18 others.

Libya's roads have ranked among the deadliest in the world.

The Libyan interior ministry's traffic department recorded 4,115 road accidents across the country in 2018, with 2,500 people killed and more than 3,000 others injured.

About 7,000 people lost their lives on the roads of Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, in 2020, according to official figures.