A four-centuries old minaret collapsed in the Lalla Khenata mosque in the old Bab el Bardiyine neighbourhood of Meknes, killing at least 41 people and injuring 71 worshippers, hospital officials and witnesses said.
Parliamentarian Dr Abdallah Bouanou confirmed the death toll. Following this painful event, HM the King decided to pay the funeral expenses.
Alaoui Ismaili, a local civil defence commander, said the rescue operation was slow because of the narrow streets in the old city medina district where the collapsed mosque minaret is located.
"We are using only manpower, not equipment as we cannot bring heavy equipment through these streets," he said.
"We are moving with great cautiousness also because the walls of houses and shops adjacent to the mosque are fragile especially after the heavy rains of the past days," Ismaili said.
Khaled Rahmouni, a Meknes, whose home is near the mosque told the Reuters news agency: "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."
The lightly injured were hospitalised in Meknes while those with serious injuries were taken to Fes, 60km north of the town, state television station said.
King Mohammed VI sent the interior minister and religious affairs minister to Meknes, about 120km east of the capital, Rabat, to visit the injured and supervise the rescue operations.
The king also ordered the reconstruction of the minaret "keeping to its original form", the interior ministry statement said.
Neglected buildings in the old quarters of the country's cities collapse fairly often, but the fall of a minaret is rare.