RABAT, Morocco (REUTERS) –
A powerful earthquake struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountains on Friday (8/9) evening, killing at least 296 people, destroying buildings and forcing residents of major cities to flee their homes for safety.
The Interior Ministry said this figure represents the current death toll, while 153 people were injured. A local official said most of the deaths occurred in hard-to-reach mountainous areas.
Residents of Marrakech, the major city closest to the epicenter, said several buildings in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, had collapsed. Local television showed images of the mosque’s collapsed minaret with debris strewn across crushed cars.
Pan-Arab news channel al-Arabiya quoted unnamed local sources as reporting that five people from one family were found dead.
Debris from the earthquake in Marrakesh, Morocco, September 9, 2023 in this screenshot taken from a video. (Photo: Al Oula TV/Handout via REUTERS)
The Interior Ministry, in a televised statement regarding the death toll, appealed to the public for calm. The government said the earthquake had hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakesh, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicenter, said most of the houses there were damaged. “Our neighbors are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using the means available in the village,” he said.
The Moroccan Geophysical Center said the earthquake occurred in the Ighil region in the High Atlas with a magnitude of 7.2. The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.8 and said it occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km.
Ighil, a mountainous area with small farming villages, is located about 70 km southwest of Marrakesh. The earthquake occurred just after 23.00 local time.
People gather on the street in Casablanca, following the devastating earthquake in Morocco, September 9, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Abdelhak Balhaki)
The earthquake was Morocco’s deadliest since a 2004 quake near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains that killed more than 600 people.
In Marrakesh, several houses in the densely populated old city collapsed and people were trying to lift the rubble while waiting for heavy equipment, said Id Waaziz Hassan, a resident of the city.
Residents in Rabat, about 350 km north of Ighil, and in the coastal town of Imsouane, about 180 km to the west, also fled their homes for fear of stronger aftershocks, according to Reuters witnesses. (ah/ft)