People awakened by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake ran into the streets in horror and disbelief.
RABAT, Morocco — A rare, powerful variety earthquake struck Morocco on Friday night, killing more than 1,000 people and damaging buildings from villages in the Atlas Mountains to the historic city of Marrakech. The full death toll has not been released as rescuers struggled across cobblestone roads to reach the remote mountain villages hardest hit.
People awakened by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake ran into the streets in horror and disbelief. A man visiting a nearby apartment said dishes and wall hangings began to rain, and many people were knocked off their feet and chairs. One woman described fleeing her home after a “violent shaking”. A man holding a child said he was startled awake in his bed by shaking.
State television showed people gathering on the streets of Marrakech, afraid to go back inside buildings that may still be unstable. Many people wrap themselves in blankets when trying to sleep outside.
The quake was the largest to hit Morocco in 120 years, toppling buildings and walls in ancient cities made from stone and masonry not designed to withstand earthquakes.
“The problem is that in places where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are not being built,” said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. sturdy enough to deal with strong ground shaking, leading to high casualties.” “I expect that the final death toll will be in the thousands once again known. As with any major earthquake, possible aftershocks will lead to further casualties and hinder search search for rescue.”
According to a statement from the military, to demonstrate the scale of the disaster, King Mohammed VI of Morocco ordered the armed forces to mobilize air and ground assets and specialized search and rescue teams. and a field surgical hospital. But despite offers of help from around the world, the Moroccan government has yet to officially request assistance, a necessary step before outside rescue teams can deploy.
In Marrakech, the famous Koutoubia Mosque, built in the 12th century, was damaged but the extent was not immediately clear. Its 69-meter (226-foot) tower is known as “the roof of Marrakech.” Moroccans also posted videos showing damage to part of the famous red wall surrounding the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported Saturday morning that at least 1,037 people were killed, mostly in Marrakech and five provinces near the epicenter, and another 1,204 were injured. Of the injured, the ministry said, 721 people were in critical condition.
Rescuers worked through the night, searching for survivors in the darkness, dust and rubble.
Most of the small village of Moulay Brahim, deep in the mountainsides south of Marrakech, was left uninhabitable after walls collapsed, windows shattered and more than a dozen houses were reduced to piles of concrete and bent metal columns. . At least 5 residents were trapped.
Ayoub Toudite said he was working out with friends at the gym when “we felt a big shaking like it was the end of the world.” In 10 seconds, he said, everything was gone.
“We saw casualties, people running and children crying,” he told the Associated Press. “We have never seen anything like this, 20 dead in the area, 30 injured.”
Rescuers used hammers and axes to free a man trapped under a two-story building. Those who were able to squeeze into the small space were offering him water.
“We were all afraid this would happen again,” Toudite said.
The head of a town near the quake’s epicenter told Moroccan news site 2M that several houses in neighboring towns had partially or completely collapsed, and electricity and roads were cut off in some places.
Abderrahim Ait Daoud, head of Talat N’Yaaqoub town, said authorities were working to clear roads in Al Haouz governorate to allow ambulances and aid to affected people to pass, but said the distance was Large among mountain villages means it will take time to learn. extent of damage.
The Moroccan army has deployed planes, helicopters and drones as well as emergency services to mobilize relief efforts to damaged areas, but roads leading to the region Mountains around the epicenter were congested with vehicles and blocked by collapsed rocks, slowing rescue efforts. Trucks loaded with blankets, camping cots and lighting equipment were trying to reach that hard-hit area, the official MAP news agency reported.
On the steep, winding roads from Marrakech to Al Haouz, ambulances with sirens blaring and cars honking their horns zigzagged around piles of Martian-like red rocks that had fallen from the mountainside and blocked the road. Red Cross workers try to clear a rock blocking the two-lane highway.
Later Saturday morning in Marrakech, ambulances and motorbikes buzzed around the edges of the old city, where business as usual largely continued on Saturday morning. Tourists and passersby breached the barriers and took photos of cracked clay walls, debris and dust scattered on sidewalks and streets.
World leaders offered to send aid or rescue teams as condolences poured in from countries across Europe, the Middle East and the G20 summit in India. The president of Turkey, whose country lost tens of thousands of people in a major earthquake earlier this year, was among those offering assistance. France and Germany, with large populations of Moroccan descent, also offered help, and the leaders of both Ukraine and Russia expressed support for the Moroccans.
The US Geological Survey said the quake had an initial magnitude of 6.8 when it struck at 11:11 p.m. (2211 GMT), with shaking lasting several seconds. The US agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock occurred 19 minutes later.
The epicenter of Friday’s earthquake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz province, about 70 kilometers south of Marrakech. Al Haouz is famous for its beautiful villages and valleys located in the High Atlas range as well as villages built on the slopes of the mountains.
The USGS said the epicenter was 18 kilometers (11 miles) below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismological agency said it was 11 kilometers (7 miles) deep. Such shallow earthquakes are more dangerous.
According to state figures, initial reports show severe damage and deaths across the Marrakech-Safi region, which more than 4.5 million people call home.
Earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa. Lahcen Mhanni, Head of Seismic Monitoring and Warning at the National Institute of Geophysics, told 2M TV that the quake was the strongest ever recorded in the region.
In 1960, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake occurred near the Moroccan city of Agadir and killed thousands of people.
The Agadir earthquake prompted changes in building regulations 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 killed more than 600 people.
Friday’s earthquake could be felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to the Portuguese Institute of Sea and Atmosphere and the Algerian Civil Defense, which oversees emergency response.
Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris, Ahmed Hatem in Cairo, Brian Melley and Hadia Bakkar in London contributed to this report.
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