The death toll from Morocco’s strong earthquake has grown to 2,012, according to state television, citing the Interior Ministry. The magnitude 6.8 quake in the High Atlas mountains late Friday night injured around 2,059 people, according to the report.
The largest earthquake in the north African kingdom’s history wreaked significant damage and drove panicked inhabitants and tourists fleeing to safety in the middle of the night.
The earthquake struck a hilly area 72 km southwest of Marrakesh around 11:11 p.m. local time on Friday, according to the US Geological Survey. Strong earthquakes were also detected in Rabat, Casablanca, and Essaouira on the Moroccan coast.
“I was nearly asleep when I heard the doors and shutters banging,” said Ghannou Najem, an elderly Casablanca resident who was visiting Marrakesh at the time of the earthquake.
“I rushed outdoors in a panic. “I was afraid I was going to die alone.”
According to one researcher, the quake was the “biggest in more than 120 years” in the north African region.
“Where damaging earthquakes are uncommon, structures are just not built firmly enough… “There are so many collapses, resulting in high casualties,” said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor at University College London.
According to Interior Ministry estimates, more nearly half of the known deaths have occurred in the provinces of Al-Haouz, the epicentre, and Taroudant.
The government also reported deaths in the provinces of Ouarzazate, Chichaoua, Azilal, and Youssoufia, as well as Marrakesh, Agadir, and the Casablanca area. According to the ministry, at least 205 of the injured are in critical condition.
Engineer Faisal Baddour said he felt the tremor three times in his building. “There are families who are still sleeping outside because we were so scared of the force of this earthquake,” he explained. “It was almost as if a train was passing close to our houses.”
Frenchman Michael Bizet, 43, who owns three traditional riad houses in Marrakesh’s old town, told CNN he was in bed when the earthquake struck.
“I was afraid my bed was going to fly away.” I went out onto the street half-naked and went straight to my riads. “It was complete chaos, a real disaster, madness,” he claimed.
Bizet posted a video showing rubble from crumbled walls in the streets.
Another video on social media showed a section of a minaret collapsing in the historic city’s Jemaa el-Fna square.
Hundreds of people flocked to the area to spend the night in dread of aftershocks, according to an AFP correspondent, some with blankets and others sleeping on the ground.
Mimi Theobold, 25, an English tourist, said she was on a restaurant terrace with companions when the tables began to shake and plates flew.
Local neighbour Houda Outassaf claimed she is “still in shock” after feeling the earth shake beneath her feet and losing relatives.
“At least ten members of my family have died… “I can’t believe it, because I was just with them two days ago,” she remarked.
Another Marrakesh resident, Fayssal Badour, said that the earthquake struck when he was driving. “I came to a halt and understood what a disaster it was… “The screaming and crying was excruciating,” he claimed.
According to the interior ministry, officials have “mobilised all necessary resources to intervene and assist the affected areas.” The regional blood transfusion clinic in Marrakesh has asked citizens to give blood for the injured.
A family was caught in the wreckage after their house fell in the village of Al-Haouz, near the epicentre of the earthquake, according to local media.
“We heard screams at the time of the tremor,” an Essaouira resident, 200 km west of Marrakesh, told AFP. “Pieces of facades have fallen.”
The USGS Pager system, which offers preliminary seismic impact assessments, issued a “red alert” for economic losses, indicating that substantial damage is likely.
Foreign leaders expressed their sorrow, and several offered help.
In a statement, US President Joe Biden said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation.”
According to Chinese official media, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed “deep grief for the victims” and hoped that “the Moroccan government and people will be able to overcome the impact of this disaster.”
Pope Francis expressed “his profound solidarity with those who are touched in the flesh and heart by this tragedy.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister who established diplomatic relations with Morocco in 2020, has ordered “any necessary assistance.”
The earthquake was also felt in nearby Algeria, but no damage or casualties were reported, according to the Algerian Civil Defence.
A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck Al Hoceima in northwestern Morocco in 2004, killing at least 628 people and injuring 926 more, and a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in Agadir killed almost 12,000 people in 1960.
Algeria, which severed ties with Morocco two years ago, announced on Saturday that it would allow humanitarian and medical flights to Morocco.
Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco in 2021, alleging “hostile acts.” Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune stated earlier this year that relations between the two North African neighbours had reached a “no-return zone.”
Algeria’s president said in a statement on Morocco’s earthquake that it was ready to provide humanitarian relief and offer all of its material and human capacities in solidarity with “the brotherly Moroccan people” if Morocco requested it.