Powerful 6.8 Earthquake Devastates Morocco, Killing Over 600

A devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 rocked Morocco late Friday, resulting in the deaths of over 600 individuals and causing significant damage to structures in the historic city of Marrakech. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), this was the most powerful seismic event to impact this region of the North African country in over a hundred years.

The earthquake occurred in Morocco’s High Atlas mountain range just after 11 p.m. local time. The USGS reported that the quake’s epicenter was relatively shallow, at a depth of 11.4 miles, and was situated about 44.7 miles southwest of Marrakech. This city, home to approximately 840,000 residents and a favored tourist spot, was significantly affected.

The Moroccan Interior Ministry, as reported by state-run TV Al Aoula, confirmed that at least 632 people lost their lives, and another 329 were injured, with 51 of those in critical condition. Many individuals spent the night outdoors in various cities, fearing aftershocks, as rescue efforts to locate those trapped under rubble commenced. Health officials also made a public appeal for blood donations to assist the victims.

The majority of fatalities occurred in mountainous regions near the epicenter, which were challenging to access. Rescue teams struggled to reach the most severely impacted areas due to damaged roads. The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces urged residents to remain vigilant for potential aftershocks.

The USGS noted that while earthquakes of this magnitude are uncommon in this part of Morocco, they are not entirely unexpected. The agency warned that significant damage was likely due to the vulnerability of many local structures to seismic activity.

State-run Al-Aoula television aired footage on Saturday of several collapsed buildings near the earthquake’s epicenter. Thousands of people reportedly fled their homes following warnings of aftershocks from the country’s National Institute of Geophysics.

Tremors were also felt in the western region near Taroudant, where residents reported fleeing their homes and experiencing aftershocks following the initial quake. The historic city of Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site, also suffered damage to buildings and city walls, resulting in injuries to some residents.

The earthquake was also felt in the capital city of Rabat, located approximately 350km north of the High Atlas mountains. This seismic event is one of the most powerful earthquakes Morocco has ever experienced, resulting in significant loss of life, destruction of historic buildings, and displacement of many residents.