Powerful earthquake strikes Morocco, claiming over 296 lives
Tragedy struck Morocco as a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake claimed over 296 lives, according to officials.
The earthquake, which occurred early on a Saturday, caused significant damage to buildings in major cities and sent panicked residents fleeing into the streets.
Reports indicate that many of the fatalities occurred in hard-to-reach areas south of Marrakech.
In Marrakech, witnesses described collapsed buildings, including those within the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and large cracks in sections of the city’s medieval walls.
Local television stations aired images of a fallen mosque minaret, with rubble strewn over damaged cars, while terrified individuals rushed out of shopping centers and restaurants in panic.
Rescue efforts are underway, with officials working tirelessly to clear roads and provide aid and medical assistance to affected areas. Due to the vast distances between mountain villages, a full assessment of the damage may take some time.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicenter, reported widespread damage to houses and efforts to rescue neighbours trapped under the rubble.
He said, “Our neighbours are trapped, and people are doing everything they can to help in the village.”
Aftershocks have been reported, leaving men, women, and children fearful of further quakes, choosing to remain outside in the streets.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the epicenter was in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 43 miles (70km) from the popular tourist destination of Marrakech. The earthquake occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 11.5 miles (18km).
This earthquake is one of the strongest in Morocco in years. Though such events are infrequent, a 5.8 magnitude tremor in 1960 resulted in thousands of deaths.
Sky News’ Africa correspondent, Yousra Elbagir, explained that building codes were revised after the 1960 earthquake. However, due to Marrakech’s historic nature and proximity to the epicenter, numerous old buildings have collapsed.
She further highlighted that Marrakech has been a site of pilgrimage and migration for centuries, attracting individuals seeking to visit ancient Sufi sites.
As hours pass, it is anticipated that the casualty count will rise, according to Sky News’ Africa correspondent, Yousra Elbagir.
The earthquake’s tremors were so powerful that they were felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, underscoring the disaster’s regional impact.