Nearly 300 die, over 150 injured as 6.8 earthquake devastates Morocco

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As many as 296 people have lost their lives as a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck southwest of Marrakesh, Morocco Friday, triggering chaos as multiple videos surfacing on social media showed collapsing buildings and debris.

The earthquake hit 44 miles (71 kilometers) southwest of Marrakesh at a depth of 18.5 kilometers at 11:11pm local time (2211 GMT). 

“According to a provisional report, the earthquake killed 296 people in the provinces and municipalities of al-Haouz, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 153 people were injured and hospitalised.

Several buildings were destroyed during the earthquake, sending residents of major cities rushing from their homes. Moreover, a local official said most deaths were in mountain areas that were hard to reach.

“Our neighbours are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village,” said Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicentre.

A map showing the intensity of the earthquake in Morocco. — USGS
A map showing the intensity of the earthquake in Morocco. — USGS

The nearest big city to the epicentre is Marrakech, where several buildings — including a UNESCO World Heritage site — collapsed in the old city.

Moreover, internet connectivity was disrupted in Marrakesh due to power cuts in the region, according to global internet monitor NetBlocks.

US Geological Survey (USGS) said that “the population in this region lives in structures that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking.”

USGS said: “The epicenter of the earthquake was at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km (11.5 miles) and occurred about 72 km (44 miles) southwest of Marrakesh and 56 km west of the Atlas Mountain town of Oukaimeden at just after 11pm local time (2200 GMT).”

Morocco experiences frequent earthquakes in its northern region due to its position between the African and Eurasian plates.

‘Buildings moving’

“We felt a very violent tremor, and I realised it was an earthquake,” Abdelhak El Amrani, a 33-year-old in Marrakesh, told AFP by telephone.

“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.”

Residents take shelter outside at a square following an earthquake in Marrakesh on September 9, 2023. — AFP
Residents take shelter outside at a square following an earthquake in Marrakesh on September 9, 2023. — AFP

“The power went out for 10 minutes, and so did the (telephone) network, but then it came back on. Everyone decided to stay outside,” he added.

Frenchman Michael Bizet, 43, who owns three traditional riad houses in Marrakech’s old town, told AFP that he had been in bed at the time of the quake.

“I thought my bed was going to fly away. I went out into the street half-naked and immediately went to see my riads. It was total chaos, a real catastrophe, madness,” he said.

Video circulating on social media showed part of a minaret collapsed on the famous Jemaa el-Fna square in the historic city, injuring two people.

Fayssal Badour, another Marrakesh resident, told AFP he was driving when the earthquake hit.

“I stopped and realised what a disaster it was. It was very serious, as if a river had burst its banks. The screaming and crying was unbearable,” he said.

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