Powerful earthquake kills more than 1,000 in Morocco, damages Marrakech
- Interior ministry figures showed 1,037 people are dead and 12,00 injured
- Marrakech residents report damage in the historic old city, as the US Geological Survey puts the quake’s magnitude at 6.8
A powerful earthquake that shook Morocco late on Friday killed more than 1,000 people, interior ministry figures showed, sending terrified residents fleeing their homes in the middle of the night.
Updated interior ministry figures on Saturday showed the quake killed 1,037 people, more than half of them in Al-Haouz and Taroudant provinces. The ministry also recorded deaths in Ouarzazate, Chichaoua, Azilal and Youssoufia provinces, as well as in Marrakech, Agadir, and the Casablanca area.
Another 1,200 people were injured, the ministry said.
Residents of Marrakech, the nearest big city to the epicentre, said some buildings had collapsed in the old city, a Unesco World Heritage site. Local television showed pictures of a fallen mosque minaret with rubble lying on smashed cars.
The Interior Ministry urged calm, saying in its televised statement on the death toll that the quake had hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant.
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.
Further west, near Taroudant, teacher Hamid Afkar said he had fled his home and felt aftershocks. “The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor,” he said.
Morocco’s geophysical centre said the quake struck in the Ighil area of the High Atlas with a magnitude of 7.2. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 6.8 and said it was at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5km (11.5 miles).
Ighil, a mountainous area with small farming villages, is about 70km southwest of Marrakech. The quake struck just after 11pm local time.
The earthquake is Morocco’s deadliest since a 2004 tremor near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains killed over 600 people.
The United Nations stood ready to help the Moroccan government in “its efforts to assist the impacted population”, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
In Marrakech, some houses in the tightly packed old city had collapsed and people were working hard by hand to remove debris while they waited for heavy equipment, said resident Id Waaziz Hassan.
Footage of the medieval city wall showed big cracks in one section and parts that had fallen, with rubble lying on the street.
“We felt a very violent tremor, and I realised it was an earthquake,” said Abdelhak El Amrani, a 33-year-old in Marrakech.
“I could see buildings moving. We don’t necessarily have the reflexes for this type of situation. Then I went outside and there were a lot of people there. People were all in shock and panic. The children were crying and the parents were distraught.”
“The power went out for 10 minutes, and so did the [telephone] network, but then it came back on,” he added. “Everyone decided to stay outside.”
Another Marrakech resident, Brahim Himmi, said he saw ambulances coming out of the old town and many building facades damaged. He said people were frightened and were staying outside in case of another quake.
“The chandelier fell from the ceiling and I ran out. I’m still in the road with my children and we’re scared,” said Houda Hafsi, 43, in Marrakech.
Another woman there, Dalila Fahem, said there were cracks in her house and damage to her furniture. “Fortunately I hadn’t gone to sleep yet,” she said.
People in the capital city of Rabat, about 350km north of Ighil, and in the coastal town of Imsouane, about 180km to its west, also fled their homes, fearing a stronger quake, according to Reuters witnesses.
In Casablanca, some 250km north of Ighil, people who spent the night in the streets were too scared to return to their homes.
“The house rocked aggressively, everyone was scared,” said resident Mohamed Taqafi. “I thought it was only my house that was moving because it’s fragile and old. I heard people screaming, everyone went out of their houses.”
Videos shared on social media of the immediate aftermath of the quake, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed people fearfully running out of a shopping centre, restaurants and apartment buildings and congregating outside.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is hosting the G20 summit this weekend, expressed sympathy on Saturday for the victims.
“Extremely pained by the loss of lives due to an earthquake in Morocco,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter. “In this tragic hour, my thoughts are with the people of Morocco. Condolences to those who have lost their loved ones.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in New Delhi for the G20 summit, also expressed his condolences.
“This is terrible news from Morocco,” Scholz posted on X. “In these difficult hours, our thoughts are with the victims of the devastating earthquake. Our condolences go out to everyone affected by this natural disaster.”
European Council President Charles Michel said the EU was ready to support Morocco.
“My thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy and the rescuers involved in the search operation,” Michel wrote on X, adding that news of the quake was “terrifying”.
“EU stands ready to support Morocco in these difficult moments.”
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and dpa