A powerful earthquake in Morocco has killed more than 2,000 people and more than thousands injured, the country’s deadliest tremor in more than six decades, toppling houses in remote mountain villages where rescuers dug through rubble for survivors.
At least 2,012 people are confirmed dead, while 2,059 were injured, including 1,404 in a critical condition, a ministry statement said.
Of that number, 1,293 dead were recorded in the province of Al-Haouz, the epicentre of the earthquake, and 452 in Taroudant province, the two worst-hit areas.
The magnitude 6.8 quake struck in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains late on Friday night. Most of the fatalities are in mountainous areas outside Marrakech, the nearest city to the epicentre, its updated toll showed.
In the village of Amizmiz, some 60 km south of Marrakech, rescue workers picked through the rubble.
“When I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet and the house leaning, I rushed to get my kids out. But my neighbours couldn’t,” said Mohamed Azaw. “Unfortunately no one was found alive in that family. The father and son were found dead and they are still looking for the mother and the daughter.”
About 20 men including firefighters and soldiers in fatigues stood atop the ruin of a house in Amizmiz as they tried to remove rubble, bits of carpet and furniture protruding from gaps between pancaked concrete floors.
In Marrakech, where 13 people were confirmed dead, residents spent the night in the open, afraid to go home.
Buildings in its old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, suffered damage. A mosque minaret had fallen in Jemaa al-Fna Square, the heart of the old city.
Injured people filtered into Marrakech from the surrounding areas seeking treatment.
State television footage from the Moulay Ibrahim area some 40 km south of Marrakesh showed dozens of houses collapsed at the foothills of a mountain, and residents digging graves as groups of women stood in the street.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the village of Asni near the epicentre, said most houses there were damaged. “Our neighbours are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village,” he said.
Further west, near Taroudant, teacher Hamid Afkar said he had fled his home and felt aftershocks. “The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor,” he said.
In Marrakech, residents described desperate scenes as people fled for safety. “I still can’t sleep in the house because of the shock and also because the old town is made up of old houses,” said Jaouhari Mohamed, an old city resident.
“If one falls, it will cause others to collapse,” he said.
The Interior Ministry urged calm, saying in a televised statement that the quake had hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant.
Morocco’s geophysical centre said the quake struck just after 11pm (2200 GMT) in the Ighil area of the High Atlas.
It was Morocco’s deadliest since 1960 when a tremor was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people, according to the US Geological Survey.
Ighil, a mountainous area with small farming villages, is about 70km southwest of Marrakech.
Spanish television RTVE reported tremors from the earthquake were felt in Huelva and Jaen in Andalusia, southern Spain.
Governments around the world expressed solidarity and offered assistance. Turkey, where powerful earthquakes in February killed more than 50,000 people, said it was ready to provide support.
UAE issues warning to citizens in Morocco
UAE’s Embassy in Morocco has asked Emiratis in the country to exercise caution, after a 7-magnitude earthquake hit the country.
In a statement issued on X, the authority said that it calls on the “country’s citizens in the Kingdom of Morocco to exercise caution” due to the earthquake.
The mission urged citizens to follow safety instructions issued by Moroccan authorities. It also asked citizens to contact the following numbers in case of emergency: 0097180024 or 0097180044444.