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Over 600 killed in Morocco earthquake

A rare, powerful earthquake struck Morocco late Friday night, killing more than 600 people and damaging buildings from villages in the Atlas Mountains to the historic city of Marrakech. The toll was expected to rise as rescuers picked through the rubble Saturday and worked to reach remote areas.

State television showed people clustered in the streets of Marrakech late at night, afraid to go back inside buildings that might still be unstable. A man said he was visiting a nearby apartment when dishes and wall hangings began raining down, and people were knocked off their feet and chairs. A woman described fleeing her house after an "intense vibration.'' A man holding a child said he was jarred awake in bed by the shaking.

Emergency workers looked for survivors in the rubble of buildings, their reflective yellow vests illuminating the nighttime landscape. A hole gaped in the side of a home, and a car was nearly buried by the chunks of a collapsed building in other images broadcast by local media.

In Marrakech, the famous Koutoubia Mosque, built in the 12th century, suffered damage, but the extent was not immediately clear. Its 69-meter minaret is known as the "roof of Marrakech." Moroccans also posted videos showing damage to parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

At least 632 people died, mostly in Marrakech and five provinces near the quake's epicenter, and another 329 people were injured, Morocco's Interior Ministry reported Saturday morning.

The head of a town near the earthquake's epicenter told Moroccan news site 2M that several homes in nearby towns had partly or totally collapsed, and electricity and roads were cut off in some places.

Abderrahim Ait Daoud, head of the town of Talat N'Yaaqoub, said authorities are working to clear roads in Al Haouz Province to allow passage for ambulances and aid to populations affected, but said large distances between mountain villages mean it will take time to learn the extent of the damage.

The Moroccan military and emergency services mobilized aid efforts to the areas hit by damages, local media reported that roads leading to the mountain region around the epicenter were jammed with vehicles and blocked with collapsed rocks, slowing rescue efforts. Trucks loaded with blankets, camp cots and lighting equipment were headed to the region, the official news agency MAP reported.

Al Haouz is known for scenic High Atlas landscapes and Amazigh villages built into mountainsides. Later Saturday morning in Marrakech, ambulances and motorcycles whirred by the edge of the old city, where business as usual mostly resumed Saturday morning. Tourists and passersby navigated roadblocks and snapped photos of sections of the clay ochre wall that had cracked, spilling fragments and dust onto the sidewalk and street.

Messages of support began to roll in from around the world on Saturday. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted early Saturday that, "this is terrible news from Morocco. In these difficult hours, our thoughts are with the victims of the devastating earthquake." Germany's Federal Agency for Technical Relief said it is preparing to provide assistance in the earthquake disaster area, if requested by Morocco.

Germany has a Moroccan community composed of more than a quarter of a million immigrants and descendants of immigrants. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, currently hosting the G20 summit of the world's largest economies, wrote that "India is ready to offer all possible assistance to Morocco in this difficult time."

The EU said in a statement Saturday that its emergency response center is closely monitoring the situation and stands ready to help, while a U.N. spokesperson said that "the United Nations is ready to assist the government of Morocco in its efforts to assist the impacted population."

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m. (2211 GMT), with shaking that lasted several seconds. The US agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.

The epicenter of Friday's tremor was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, roughly 70 kilometers south of Marrakech. The USGS said the epicenter was 18 kilometers below the Earth's surface, while Morocco's seismic agency put it at 11 kilometers down. Such shallow quakes are more dangerous.

Initial reports suggest damages and deaths were severe throughout the Marrakech-Safi region, which more than 4.5 million people call home, according to state figures.

Earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa. Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department at the National Institute of Geophysics, told 2M TV that the earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in the mountain region.

In 1960, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near the Moroccan city of Agadir and caused thousands of deaths. The Agadir quake prompted changes in construction rules in Morocco, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors.

In 2004, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima left more than 600 dead. Friday's quake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria's Civil Defense agency, which oversees emergency response.


-2 #1 kabayekka 2023-09-10 07:54
Well this seems to be a very small number of humans dead on the African continent than what power greedy African leadership aspire to kill their opponents now many years and counting!
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-1 #2 Akot 2023-09-10 14:23
The Bible warns us; there will be earthquakes, floodings, landslides, nations will rise against nations... but the end will come as a thief in the middle of the night!

Even self declared lifetime rulers with sons waiting to replace them don't have the power to stop what the Bible worns us against, not even the money they steal will protect them!

France, Spain...are suffocating under heat from N. Africa, +35°, at a time when temperature should be -25°!

Canada that has been very cold didn't expect such heat & wasn't prepared to fight wild fire!

Which African country can help its people against such desasters?
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0 #3 Lakwena 2023-09-11 14:07
Tragic and indeed sad.

But from the look of things (here-above), now that it has happened; it is high time the Moroccan government did something about building inspection.

Otherwise, seeing is believing! Structurally some of the buildings (above) seem too dangerous for human and animal habitation
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