A powerful earthquake struck Morocco late Friday night, killing more than 1,000 people, injuring hundreds of others and damaging buildings and historic landmarks, including in the tourism hub of Marrakech.
(Bloomberg) — A powerful earthquake struck Morocco late Friday night, killing more than 1,000 people, injuring hundreds of others and damaging buildings and historic landmarks, including in the tourism hub of Marrakech.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry said the number of casualties was likely to continue rising from the current estimate of 1,037. Beyond the injured were others unaccounted for after one of the strongest quakes to hit the nation in almost a century.
Most of the damage occurred in small towns and villages dotting the High Atlas Mountains, outside of Marrakech and Taroudant. Many homes in those areas are made of adobe and can be hard to access.
Morocco announced the deployment of the army to help find survivors, and world leaders rushed to offer support for what’s likely to be a massive recovery effort.
Local media reported that first responders were hampered when roads to the mountain region around the quake’s epicenter were jammed with vehicles and blocked with rocks. Power supplies were also cut off in some areas, the Associated Press reported, citing local media.
The earthquake, which hit after 11 p.m. Friday local time, measured 6.8 on the Richter scale and was centered near the town of Oukaïmedene in the High Atlas mountain range, roughly 75 kilometers (47 miles) southeast of Marrakech, the US Geological Survey said on its website. Morocco’s National Institute of Geophysics estimated the quake at 7, the online news site Hespress reported. The tremblor was also felt in Portugal and Spain, according to social media posts.
Local residents and tourists posted videos on social media showing some buildings reduced to rubble. Parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakech, a Unesco World Heritage site, were also damaged, as were some hotels and other infrastructure.
Marrakech is scheduled to host the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in mid-October, bringing thousands to Morocco’s fourth-largest city. It will be the first time the gatherings have been held in Africa in 50 years.
US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy were among those to express sympathy and readiness to provide assistance. President Recep Tayyip Erodogan of Turkey, where a massive earthquake killed tens of thousands of people in February, joined the chorus.
Nasser Jabour, director of Morocco’s National Institute of Geophysics, said on national broadcaster SNRT that weak aftershocks were recorded at the epicenter of the earthquake. A tsunami warning was also in effect for coastal areas, the US Embassy in Rabat said in a safety alert on its website.
Earthquakes of this size in the region are rare, the USGS said. Since 1900 there had been no quakes measuring 6 of more within 500 km of Friday’s quake. One in 1960 measuring 5.8 was centered further west, near Agadir, and resulted in thousands of deaths.
–With assistance from Sylvia Westall.
(Updates with new death toll in first paragraph.)
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