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Earthquake in Morocco kills more than 1,300 people, at least 1,800 others injured


The death toll in a powerful earthquake around Marrakesh has risen to 1,305 people, Morocco’s interior ministry said, with at least 1,832 others injured – 1,220 critically. Authorities continue to assess the damage.

Most of the casualties so far were in Marrakesh and five provinces near the quake’s epicentre. The casualty figures was expected to rise as rescuers struggled on Saturday night to reach hard-hit remote areas.

The magnitude-6.8 quake, the biggest to hit the North African country in 120 years, sent people fleeing their homes in terror and disbelief late on Friday. The country’s government said that most damage occurred outside of cities and towns.

Moroccans posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust, and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in historic Marrakesh, a Unesco World Heritage site, damaged.

Tourists and others posted videos of people screaming and evacuating restaurants in the city as throbbing club music played.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11.11pm local time, with shaking that lasted several seconds. Morocco’s National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale.

The tremor’s epicentre struck near the town of Ighil, roughly 70km south of Marrakesh.

According to Moroccan news site 2M, town loader Abderrahim Ait Daoud from Talat N’Yaaqoub, a town close to the quake’s epicentre, said several homes in the surrounding areas had partially or totally collapsed.

He added that authorities were working to clear roads in Al Haouz Province to allow passage for ambulances and aid to populations affected; however, he said that the large distances between mountain villages meant it would take time to learn the extent of the damage.

Other local media also reported roads near the quake’s epicentre were jammed with vehicles and blocked with collapsed rocks, slowing rescue efforts.

The USGS said the epicentre was 18km (11 miles) below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency put it at 8km (5 miles) down. In either case, such shallow quakes are more dangerous.

Rather than return to concrete buildings, men, women and children stayed out in the streets worried about aftershocks and other reverberations that could cause their homes to sway.

The US agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.

Though earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near Agadir and caused thousands of deaths in 1960.

National Institute of Geophysics’ head of seismic monitoring and warning, Lahcen Mhanni, told 2M TV that the earthquake was “exceptional”.

“Mountainous regions in general do not produce earthquakes of this size,” he said. “It is the strongest earthquake recorded in the region.”

Agencies in both Portugal and Algeria confirmed Friday’s quake was felt in both nations. Algeria said it would open its airspace for humanitarian and medical flights to and from Morocco.

Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Morocco in 2021, citing what it said were “hostile acts”. Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune said earlier this year that relations between the North African neighbours had reached “a point of no return”.

In a statement on Morocco’s earthquake, Algeria’s presidency said it was ready to provide humanitarian aid and offer all its material and human capabilities in solidarity with the brotherly Moroccan people, if Morocco requests such help. – AP, additional reporting Reuters



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