Devastating earthquake claims over 600 lives in Morocco
- Following a powerful earthquake in Morocco on Friday night, the death toll has risen to at least 632.
- State media reported on Saturday that the number of injured individuals stands at 329, according to an updated initial casualty count from the Interior Ministry.
- Prior to this update, a local official had mentioned that most of the deaths occurred in remote mountainous areas.
A powerful earthquake struck the High Atlas mountains in Morocco on Friday night, resulting in the deaths of at least 632 people. The earthquake also caused extensive destruction of buildings and forced residents in major cities to evacuate their homes, as reported by state television.
As of Saturday, the number of injured individuals stands at 329, according to state media. This information is based on an updated initial casualty count provided by the Interior Ministry.
A local official had previously mentioned that the majority of deaths occurred in mountainous areas that were difficult to access.
Residents of Marrakech, the nearest major city to the epicenter, reported the collapse of several buildings in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Local television coverage showed images of a mosque minaret that had fallen onto crushed cars beneath a pile of rubble.
In its televised statement regarding the death toll, the Interior Ministry urged calm, noting that the earthquake affected the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicenter, stated that most of the houses there had suffered damage. He added, “Our neighbors are trapped under the debris, and people in the village are making every effort to rescue them using available resources.”
Further west, near Taroudant, a teacher named Hamid Afkar reported that he had fled his home and experienced aftershocks.
In Marrakesh, residents sought shelter in a square after the earthquake on September 9, 2023.
AFP Fadel SENNA / AFP
“The ground shook for approximately 20 seconds. As I hurried downstairs from the second floor, doors were opening and closing on their own,” recounted Hamid Afkar.
According to Morocco’s geophysical center, the earthquake occurred in the Ighil area of the High Atlas with a magnitude of 7.2. The US Geological Survey reported a magnitude of 6.8 and stated that the earthquake occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km.
Ighil, a mountainous area consisting of small farming villages, is located approximately 70 km southwest of Marrakech. The earthquake struck shortly after 22:00.
This is Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since a 2004 tremor near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains claimed the lives of over 600 people.
UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric stated that the United Nations is prepared to support the Moroccan government in its efforts to assist the affected population.
Damage in Marrakech
In Marrakech, some houses in the densely populated old city have collapsed, and people are manually removing debris while awaiting heavy equipment, according to resident Id Waaziz Hassan.
Footage of the medieval city wall shows significant cracks and collapsed sections, with rubble scattered on the streets.
Brahim Himmi, another resident of Marrakech, reported damaged building facades and observed ambulances leaving the old town. He described a sense of fear among the population, prompting them to stay outside in anticipation of another earthquake.
“The chandelier fell from the ceiling, and I immediately ran outside. I am currently on the street with my children, and we are scared,” shared Houda Hafsi, a 43-year-old Marrakech resident.
Dalila Fahem, another woman in Marrakech, stated that there were cracks in her house and damage to her furniture. Thankfully, she had not gone to sleep yet when the earthquake struck.
Witnesses in Rabat, the capital city located approximately 350 km north of Ighil, and the coastal town of Imsouane, around 180 km to the west, reported residents fleeing their homes due to fear of a stronger earthquake.
In Casablanca, situated around 250 km north of Ighil, people who spent the night on the streets were too frightened to return to their homes.
“The house shook violently, and everyone was terrified,” said Mohamed Taqafi, a resident. “Initially, I thought it was just my house due to its age and fragility. I heard people screaming, and everyone rushed out of their houses.”
Social media videos showing the immediate aftermath of the earthquake depicted people running out of a shopping center, restaurants, and apartment buildings in a state of fear. However, the authenticity of these videos could not be immediately verified by Reuters.