Many hundreds feared dead in Morocco after massive earthquake
A man picks his way through the post-quake rubble in devastated Rabat. Photo: Getty
A powerful earthquake has struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, killing at least 632 people, destroying buildings and sending residents of major cities rushing from their homes.
The number of injured stood at 329, state media reported on Saturday, citing an updated initial casualty toll from the Interior Ministry.
A local official said most deaths were in mountain areas that were hard to reach.
Morocco’s geophysical centre said the quake struck at 11.11pm on Frdat in the Ighil area of the High Atlas with a magnitude of 7.2.
The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 6.8 and said it was at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5km.
Ighil, a mountainous area with small farming villages, is about 70km southwest of Marrakech.
Residents of Marrakech, the nearest big city to the epicentre, said some buildings had collapsed in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and local television showed pictures of a fallen mosque minaret with rubble partially burying smashed cars.
Pan-Arab al-Arabiya news channel reported five people were killed from one family, citing unnamed local sources.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicentre, said most houses there were damaged.
“Our neighbours are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village,” he said.
Further west, near Taroudant, teacher Hamid Afkar said he had fled his home and there had been aftershocks following the initial quake.
“The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor,” he said.
In Marrakech, some houses in the tightly packed old city had collapsed and people were working hard by hand to remove debris while they waited for heavy equipment, said resident Id Waaziz Hassan.
Footage of the medieval city wall showed big cracks in one section and parts that had fallen, with rubble lying on the street.
Residents gather in the street after the quake drove them from their homes. Photo: AP
Another Marrakech resident, Brahim Himmi, said he saw ambulances coming out of the old town and many building facades damaged.
He said people were frightened and stayed outside in case of another quake.
“The chandelier fell from the ceiling and I ran out,” said Houda Hafsi, in Marrakech.
“I’m still in the road with my children and we’re scared.”
Another woman there, Dalila Fahem, said there were cracks in her house and damage to her furniture. “Fortunately I hadn’t gone to sleep yet,” she said.
People in Rabat, about 350km north of Ighil, and in the coastal town of Imsouane, about 180km to its west, also fled their homes, fearing a stronger quake, according to Reuters witnesses.
In Casablanca, some 250km north of Ighil, people who spent the night in the streets were too scared to return home.
“The house rocked aggressively – everyone was scared,” resident Mohamed Taqafi said.
“I thought it was only my house that was moving because it’s fragile and old.
“I heard people screaming.
“Everyone went out of their houses.”
Videos shared on social media of the immediate aftermath of the quake, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed people fearfully running out of a shopping centre, restaurants and apartment buildings and congregating outside.