Earthquake leaves 632 people dead

MOROCCO- Late Friday, a devastating earthquake rocked the High Atlas mountains in Morocco, resulting in the loss of at least 632 lives. The quake also led to significant structural damage, causing panic among residents of major cities who were forced to evacuate their homes. In an updated initial casualty report released on Saturday, the number of injured individuals had risen to 329. The majority of fatalities occurred in mountainous regions that are difficult to access, as per an earlier statement from a local official.

Marrakech, the closest major city to the earthquake’s epicenter, reported collapsed buildings in its old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. State television broadcast images of a toppled mosque minaret, with debris scattered over crushed cars. The Interior Ministry, in a televised statement, urged the public to remain calm and noted that the earthquake had affected the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant.

Residents of Asni, a mountain village near the epicenter, reported extensive damage to most houses. Montasir Itri, a local, described the desperate rescue efforts to save neighbors trapped under the rubble. Hamid Afkar, a teacher from Taroudant, recounted his terrifying experience of fleeing his home and feeling the aftershocks.

The quake struck in the Ighil area of the High Atlas. It was reported to have a magnitude of 7.2 by Morocco’s geophysical center. However, the US Geological Survey estimated the quake’s magnitude at 6.8, occurring at a relatively shallow depth of 11.5 miles. Ighil, a mountainous region populated by small farming villages, is situated approximately 40 miles southwest of Marrakech. The quake occurred just after 11 p.m.

This earthquake is the deadliest Morocco has experienced since a 2004 tremor near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains, which claimed over 600 lives. The United Nations has pledged to assist the Moroccan government in its efforts to aid the affected population, according to a statement from UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

In Marrakech, the tightly packed old city saw several houses collapse. Residents are working tirelessly to clear the debris as they awaited heavy machinery. Footage from the scene showed significant cracks in the medieval city wall and rubble strewn across the street. Residents reported seeing ambulances leaving the old town and extensive damage to many building facades. Fear of aftershocks kept many people outdoors.

Residents of Rabat, the capital city, and the coastal town of Imsouane also evacuated their homes in fear of a stronger quake. In Casablanca, nearly 250 km north of Ighil, residents spent the night in the streets because they were too terrified to return to their homes.