At least 296 people were killed in a powerful earthquake that struck Morocco late Friday night, the interior ministry said.
“According to a provisional report, the earthquake killed 296 people in the provinces and municipalities of al-Haouz, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant,” the ministry said in a statement
The interior ministry said that the figure represents an initial count of fatalities, with 153 individuals reported as injured. According to a local official, the majority of the fatalities occurred in remote mountainous regions that presented significant challenges for rescue efforts due to their difficult accessibility.
The earthquake resulted in significant damage to buildings in major cities and caused panic among residents. People rushed into the streets and alleyways, from the capital city Rabat to Marrakech, which is the country’s most popular tourist destination.
Local media reported that numerous buildings had sustained damage, and there were concerns that dozens of people might have lost their lives.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicentre, said most houses there were damaged. “Our neighbours are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village,” he said.
Morccan citizens shared videos showing the aftermath of the earthquake, with buildings reduced to rubble and dust. Parts of the iconic red walls surrounding Marrakech’s historic old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, were also damaged. Videos from tourists and locals depicted scenes of people evacuating restaurants and establishments, with the sound of loud club music in the background.
In the wake of such earthquakes, information regarding the extent of damage and any potential casualties often takes time to emerge, especially when the tremor occurs during the night.
Rather than returning to their homes in concrete buildings, men, women, and children opted to remain in the streets, fearful of aftershocks and further tremors that could put their homes at risk.
The US Geological Survey initially reported a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 for the earthquake, which occurred at 11:11pm (2211 GMT) and lasted for several seconds. Morocco’s National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network, on the other hand, measured it at 7 on the Richter scale. The US agency also noted a magnitude-4.9 aftershock 19 minutes later. Discrepancies in early measurements are common, but either reading would make this earthquake one of the strongest in Morocco in recent years. Although earthquakes are relatively uncommon in North Africa, a magnitude 5.8 tremor near Agadir in 1960 resulted in thousands of fatalities.
The earthquake’s epicenter was located high in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech. It was also close to Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak, and Oukaimeden, a popular Moroccan ski resort. The USGS reported that the epicenter was 18 kilometers (11 miles) beneath the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency estimated it to be 8 kilometers (5 miles) deep.

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