Over 1,300 killed and more than 2,000 injured in deadly Morocco quake that registered 6.8 on the Richter magnitude scale
Moroccan earthquake survivors huddled for a night in the open on the High Atlas Mountains on Saturday, a day after the country’s deadliest quake in more than six decades killed over 1,300 people and laid waste to villages.
Neighbours were still searching for survivors buried on the slopes, where houses of mud brick, stone and rough wood were cracked open and mosque minarets toppled by the quake that struck late on Friday. The historic old city of Marrakech also suffered extensive damage.
Residents of Marrakech stay out at a square after the earthquake struck the region on Friday night.Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images
The Interior Ministry said 1,305 people had been killed and 1,832 injured by the quake, gauged by the U.S. Geological Survey at a magnitude of 6.8 with an epicentre some 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech.
In the village of Amizmiz near the epicentre, rescue workers picked through rubble with their bare hands. Fallen masonry blocked narrow streets. Outside a hospital, around 10 bodies lay covered in blankets as grieving relatives stood nearby.
Tremors were felt as far away as Huelva and Jaen in southern Spain. The World Health Organization said more than 300,000 people were affected in Marrakech and surrounding areas.
Street camera footage in Marrakech showed the moment the earth began to shake, as men suddenly looked around and jumped up, and others ran for shelter into an alleyway and then fled as dust and debris tumbled around them.
In the heart of the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a mosque minaret had fallen in Jemaa al-Fna Square. Some houses in the tightly packed old city collapsed and people used their hands to remove debris while they waited for heavy equipment, said resident Id Waaziz Hassan.
Morocco declared three days of national mourning, during which the national flag will be flown at half staff throughout the country, the royal court said on Saturday.
The Moroccan armed forces will deploy rescue teams to provide affected areas with clean drinking water, food supplies, tents and blankets, it added.
King Mohammed VI presided over a meeting on the emergency situation, the Royal Palace said on Saturday.
Government officials briefed the King on the damage and loss of life, including locations that were not accessible until the morning, according to the palace statement published by state-run broadcaster 2M.
King Mohammed VI
Officials also told the King that measures taken so far include bolstering search and rescue teams to accelerate rescue and evacuation operations, and distributing food, water, tents and blankets to survivors to affected areas.
The King also issued instructions to set up a relief commission for deploying aid, rehabilitation and the reconstruction of destroyed housing in disaster regions “as soon as possible.”
Turkey, where powerful earthquakes in February killed more than 50,000 people, was among nations expressing solidarity and offering to provide support.
Algeria, which broke off ties with Morocco in 2021 after escalating tensions between the countries focused on the Western Sahara conflict, said it would open airspace for humanitarian and medical flights.
The quake was recorded at a depth of 18.5 km, typically more destructive than deeper quakes of the same magnitude. It was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 when a quake was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Mohammad Kashani, Associate Professor of Structural and Earthquake Engineering at the University of Southampton, compared scenes of the aftermath to images from Turkey in February: “The area is full of old and historical buildings, which are mainly masonry. The collapsed reinforced concrete structures that I saw … were either old or substandard.”
Marrakech is due to host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank from Oct. 9.
An IMF spokesperson, asked about the planned meetings, said: “Our sole focus at this time is on the people of Morocco and the authorities who are dealing with this tragedy.”
Not since 2004 has the country seen a comparable disaster, when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the port city of Al Hoceima, claiming around 630 lives. Morocco’s worst earthquake of modern times was in 1960 near the western city of Agadir which killed at least 12,000 people.