State-run Al Oula TV channel on Saturday showed several buildings collapsing near the epicenter.
A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Morocco on Friday night, killing nearly 300 people and forcing many residents to spend the night in the streets in what the US Geological Survey (USGS) said was the strongest earthquake to hit this part of the North African country. In more than a century.
The US Geological Survey said that the earthquake occurred in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco shortly after 11 p.m. local time at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.4 miles), and the epicenter was located about 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest. Marrakesh, a city with few residents. 840,000 people and a popular tourist destination.
The Moroccan Interior Ministry said on Saturday that at least 296 people were killed and 153 others were injured.
Reuters reported, citing a local official, that most of the deaths occurred in difficult-to-reach mountainous areas.
The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces warned that residents are still vulnerable to aftershocks.
“We remind you of the need to be careful and take safety measures due to the risk of aftershocks,” the army wrote on the X website, formerly known as Twitter.
The US Geological Survey said Friday night’s earthquake was unusually strong for this part of Morocco.
“Earthquakes of this size in the region are uncommon, but not unexpected. Since 1900, there have been no M6 (magnitude 6) and larger earthquakes within 500 kilometers of this quake, and only 9,” the USGS said. M5 (magnitude 5) earthquakes and larger earthquakes.”
The American authority expected “the possibility of serious damage and the possibility of the disaster spreading on a large scale.” Many people in the area live in buildings that are “highly vulnerable to earthquakes.”
State-run Al Oula TV on Saturday showed several buildings collapsed near the epicenter and reported that thousands of people had fled their homes after the country’s National Institute of Geophysics warned of aftershocks.
A local resident, Montaser Otri, told Reuters that most of the homes in the mountainous village of Asni, close to the epicenter of the earthquake, were damaged.
He added: “Our neighbors are under the rubble and the people are working hard to save them using the means available in the village.”
The tremors were also felt in the west near Taroudant, where one resident said he fled his home and aftershocks occurred following the first earthquake, according to Reuters.
“The ground shook for about 20 seconds. The doors opened and closed on their own when I quickly came down from the second floor,” Hamid Afkar, a teacher, told Reuters.
On Saturday, the official Al-Oula TV channel in Moro showed several buildings collapsed near the epicenter.
Eid Aziz Hassan, a local resident, told Reuters news agency that some houses in the old city of Marrakesh, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, collapsed and people were moving the rubble with their hands while they waited for heavy equipment.
Ibrahim Himi, another resident of Marrakesh, told Reuters that he saw ambulances leaving the old town and that many building facades were damaged. He added that people were afraid and staying outside in anticipation of another earthquake.
“The chandelier fell from the ceiling and ran away. Hoda Al-Hafsi, 43 years old, a resident of Marrakesh, told Reuters, “I am still on the road with my children and we are afraid.”
A former imperial city with a history dating back nearly 1,000 years, Marrakesh is full of medieval palaces, mosques, gardens and bustling markets. The old city center is surrounded by red earth walls and filled with buildings made of red sandstone, giving the city the nickname “Red City”.
Al-Oula TV reported that the walls were first placed in the early 12th century, and some of the walls were damaged in the earthquake.
Before the Covid pandemic, the Old City attracted nearly three million tourists in 2019.
In addition to its rich culture and history, Marrakesh is also the largest of the four cities of Mokoro and a major economic centre.
Reuters, citing eyewitnesses, said that residents of the capital, Rabat, about 350 kilometers north of the High Atlas Mountains, also felt the tremor.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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