Central Morocco has been plunged into mourning following the deadliest earthquake the country has witnessed in decades. The earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, struck the High Atlas mountain range just after 11 p.m. local time on Friday.
This powerful seismic event occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.4 miles) and had its epicenter situated approximately 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of Marrakech, a city known for its vibrant culture and tourism.
The aftermath of the earthquake has been catastrophic, with at least 820 people confirmed dead and 672 others wounded.
Among the wounded, 205 individuals are in critical condition, according to state-run TV channel Al Aoula, which cited Morocco’s Interior Ministry. The scale of this disaster has not been witnessed in Morocco since 2004 when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the port city of Al Hoceima, claiming around 630 lives. Morocco’s worst earthquake in modern times occurred in 1960 near the western city of Agadir, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 12,000 lives.
Eyewitnesses in the Atlas Mountains foothills, near the earthquake’s epicenter, recounted scenes of destruction. Fatima, 50, shared her harrowing experience, saying, “I barely got the chance to grab the kids and run out before I saw my house collapsing in front of my eyes. The neighbor’s house has also collapsed, and there are two dead people under the rubble.”
Another survivor, Mohammed, 50, from the town of Ouirgane, tragically lost four family members in the earthquake. He stated, “I managed to get out safely with my two children but lost the rest. My house is gone.”
Rescue operations are currently underway in the affected areas. Authorities, alongside volunteers, are tirelessly working to recover the deceased from the rubble. Many Moroccans spent the night on the streets out of fear of aftershocks, with health authorities calling on people to donate blood to assist the victims. The majority of casualties occurred in remote mountainous regions close to the epicenter, making access for rescue teams challenging due to damaged roads.
The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces have issued warnings for residents to remain vigilant for potential aftershocks. In a statement on social media, they reminded the public of the need to exercise caution and take safety measures due to the ongoing risk.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has noted that Friday night’s earthquake was unusually strong for the region. “Earthquakes of this size in the region are uncommon, but not unexpected. Since 1900, there have been no earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger within 500 km of this earthquake, and only 9 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or larger,” the USGS reported. They also expressed concerns about the potential for significant damage and widespread disaster, particularly given that many structures in the area are highly vulnerable to earthquake tremors.
The aftermath of this devastating earthquake in Morocco continues to unfold, with countless lives affected by this tragic event. Morocco, a country renowned for its rich history and culture, is now grappling with the immense challenge of recovery and reconstruction in the wake of this natural disaster.