Over 600 Dead as Buildings Collapse in Morocco Earthquake

Morocco Earthquake

Over 600 Dead as Buildings Collapse in Morocco Earthquake – A devastating earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.8 struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, leaving hundreds dead as buildings crumbled and residents fled their shaking homes in numerous cities and towns.

Marrakech, the nearest major city to the epicenter, witnessed some buildings collapsing in its old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Initial reports indicated that a part of a towering minaret overlooking Jemaa el-Fnaa, a bustling market square and a central hub for visitors, had crumbled, injuring two individuals. Local residents hastily sought refuge in the open area of the square.

Seeking Safety

Local television broadcasts displayed scenes of rubble and shattered pipes crushing parked cars and obstructing streets throughout Marrakech. The tremor struck at 11:11 pm on a Friday, prompting residents to rush into the streets, seeking safety from potential aftershocks. State TV showed people wrapped in blankets sleeping on the streets, fearing further seismic activity.

Morocco Earthquake
Hundreds reported dead in Morocco Earthquake

“I was returning home when the earthquake struck. My car rocked back and forth, but I didn’t imagine for a single second this meant there was an earthquake happening,” said Fayssal Badour, a resident of Marrakech.

On Saturday morning, Moroccan TV reports raised the death toll to 632, with 329 injured, citing the interior ministry. Earlier, the ministry reported hundreds of fatalities in provinces near the epicenter. Most of the damage was reported to have occurred outside urban areas, primarily in remote mountainous regions that were difficult to access.

The Experience

“The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor,” described Hamid Afkir, a teacher in a mountainous area near Taroudant. He also mentioned experiencing aftershocks.

Morocco’s geophysical center stated that the earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2, struck the Ighil area. The US Geological Survey reported a magnitude of 6.8 and a relatively shallow depth of 11.5 miles (18.5 km).

Morocco Earthquake

Ighil, a mountainous region with small farming villages, is approximately 40 miles (70 km) southwest of Marrakech. The earthquake occurred just after 11 pm local time.

In Marrakech, residents in the tightly packed old city were laboring to remove debris by hand from collapsed houses while awaiting heavy equipment.

Witnesses in Rabat, about 220 miles (350 km) north of Ighil, and in the coastal town of Imsouane, approximately 102 miles (180 km) west of Rabat, reported fleeing their homes out of fear of a more powerful quake.

Internet connectivity in Marrakech was disrupted due to regional power outages, according to the global internet monitor NetBlocks.

Extent of the Shock

The earthquake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, underscoring the vulnerability of the region’s structures to seismic activity. Morocco often experiences earthquakes in its northern region due to its location between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates.

In 2004, a quake in northeastern Morocco’s al-Hoceima region claimed at least 628 lives and injured 926 people. In 1980, the 7.3-magnitude El Asnam earthquake in neighboring Algeria resulted in 2,500 deaths and left over 300,000 people homeless.