A powerful earthquake struck Morocco‘s High Atlas mountains on Friday evening, September 8, 2023, killing at least 296 people, destroying buildings and sending residents of major cities rushing to flee their homes. The Interior Ministry said the figure was the provisional death toll and 153 people injured. A local official said most of the deaths occurred in the hard-to-reach mountainous areas.
Residents of Marrakech, the nearest major city to the epicenter, said several buildings in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had collapsed. Local television showed images of the mosque’s collapsed minaret with debris lying on top of crushed cars.
The Interior Ministry, in a televised statement regarding the death toll, urged calm and said the earthquake had hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicenter, said most of the houses there were damage. Further west, near Taroudant, teacher Hamid Afkar said he had left his house and there were aftershocks after the initial quake.
The earth shook for about 20 seconds The Moroccan Geophysical Center
said the earthquake occurred in the Ighil region in the High Atlas with a magnitude of 7.2 on the Richter scale. The US Geological Survey put the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.8 on the Richter scale and said it occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km. Ighil, a mountainous area with small farming villages, is located about 70 km southwest of Marrakech. The earthquake occurred just after 11 p.m. The earthquake was Morocco’s deadliest since a 2004 quake near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains that killed more than 600 people. Marrakech damage
In Marrakech, several houses in the densely populated old city had collapsed and people were working hard by hand to remove the rubble while waiting for heavy equipment, said resident Id Waaziz Hassan.
Footage of the medieval city walls showed large cracks in one section and several collapsed sections, with rubble lying in the street.
Another Marrakech resident
Brahim Himmi, said he saw ambulances leaving the old city and many building facades damaged. He said people were scared and staying outside in case another earthquake struck. I was still on the road with my children and we were scared,” said Houda Hafsi, 43, in Marrakech.
Residents in Rabat, about 350 km north of Ighil, and in the coastal town of Imsouane, about 180 km to the west, also fled their homes for fear of a stronger earthquake, according to Reuters witnesses.
Videos shared on social media in the immediate aftermath of the quake, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed terrified people running out of shopping centres, restaurants and apartment buildings and congregating outside.z