Rabat, Sept 9 (The Street Press) – A very strong earthquake hit the High Atlas mountains in Morocco on Friday night. It sadly took the lives of at least 296 people, wrecked buildings, and made people in big cities quickly leave their homes.
The Interior Ministry reported that the number of deaths is a preliminary count, and 153 people have been injured. A local official mentioned that most of the casualties occurred in remote mountain regions that are difficult to access.
People living in Marrakech, which is the closest major city to the earthquake’s center, mentioned that some buildings in the historic old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, have crumbled. Local TV broadcasts also displayed images of a mosque minaret that had collapsed, with debris covering damaged cars.
The Pan-Arab al-Arabiya news channel reported that five people from a single family lost their lives, citing unnamed local sources.
The Interior Ministry, during its televised announcement regarding the death toll, appealed for calm and stated that the earthquake had affected the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicenter, shared that most houses in the area suffered damage. He mentioned, “Our neighbours are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village,” when speaking to Reuters.
To the west, near Taroudant, teacher Hamid Afkar explained that he had to leave his home, and there were aftershocks following the initial earthquake.
He described the experience, saying, “The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor,” in an interview with Reuters.
Morocco’s geophysical center reported that the earthquake occurred in the Ighil area of the High Atlas with a magnitude of 7.2. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the quake’s magnitude at 6.8 and noted that it was relatively shallow, at a depth of 18.5 km (11.5 miles).
Ighil, which is a hilly region with small farming communities, is approximately 70 km (40 miles) southwest of Marrakech. The earthquake occurred just after 11 p.m. (2200 GMT).
This earthquake marks Morocco’s deadliest since a 2004 tremor near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains, which tragically claimed the lives of over 600 people.
In Marrakech, certain houses in the densely populated old city unfortunately collapsed. Resident Id Waaziz Hassan reported that people were diligently clearing debris by hand while awaiting heavy equipment.
Video footage of the medieval city wall revealed significant cracks in one section, with parts of it having collapsed, leaving rubble in the streets.
Another Marrakech resident, Brahim Himmi, witnessed ambulances leaving the old town, and he noticed extensive damage to many building facades. People in the area were understandably scared and chose to stay outside in case of any further earthquakes.
Another woman in the area, Dalila Fahem, mentioned that her house had developed cracks and her furniture was damaged. She expressed relief, saying, “Fortunately, I hadn’t gone to sleep yet.”
Reports from Reuters witnesses indicated that people in Rabat, approximately 350 km (220 miles) north of Ighil, and the coastal town of Imsouane, about 180 km west of Ighil, also left their homes, fearing the possibility of a stronger earthquake.
Videos shared on social media immediately following the quake, though not yet verified by Reuters, depicted people rushing out of a shopping center, restaurants, and apartment buildings in a state of fear, gathering outside for safety.