A powerful earthquake struck Morocco on Friday night, leaving a devastating toll of 296 lives lost. The earthquake had a significant impact on various cities, including Marrakech and Rabat, as well as several provinces, including Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant, according to the Interior Ministry.
The Interior Ministry has emphasized that this number is a preliminary death toll and that 153 people have been reported injured. The hardest-hit areas appear to be the remote mountain regions, where rescue efforts have been challenging due to the difficult terrain.
Residents of Marrakech, the city nearest to the earthquake’s epicenter, reported the collapse of buildings in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shocking images circulated on local television showed the minaret of a mosque toppled onto smashed cars.
Tragically, a Pan-Arab al-Arabiya news channel reported the loss of five lives from a single family, based on anonymous local sources.
The Interior Ministry, in a televised statement about the death toll, has called for calm amid this crisis.
Survivors from the village of Asni, located near the epicenter, described widespread damage to houses. “Our neighbors are trapped beneath the rubble, and people are working tirelessly to rescue them using whatever means are available in the village,” said Montasir Itri.
To the west, near Taroudant, teacher Hamid Afkar recounted his experience of the earthquake. “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 center reported that the earthquake struck the Ighil area of the High Atlas with a magnitude of 7.2. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the quake’s magnitude at 6.8, noting its relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km (11.5 miles).
Ighil, a mountainous region with small farming villages, is approximately 70 km (40 miles) southwest of Marrakech. The earthquake occurred just after 11 p.m. (2200 GMT).
This earthquake stands as Morocco’s deadliest since the 2004 tremor near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains, which claimed the lives of over 600 people.
In Marrakech, efforts to remove debris from collapsed houses were underway as residents awaited heavy equipment. The old city of Marrakech displayed significant damage, with cracks in its medieval city wall and fallen sections.
Residents throughout the affected region remained fearful of further quakes, prompting them to stay outdoors. Videos shared on social media depicted panicked scenes as people rushed out of buildings and gathered in open spaces.
This devastating earthquake has left Morocco mourning a profound loss of life and facing the arduous task of recovery and rebuilding in its wake.