RABAT, Morocco (AP) — A devastating earthquake struck Morocco late Friday night, claiming the lives of nearly 300 people and causing extensive damage to buildings and historic landmarks in major cities.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported early Saturday that a minimum of 307 individuals had tragically lost their lives in the provinces affected by the quake, with an additional 153 injured persons rushed to hospitals for medical attention. The ministry emphasized that the majority of the damage occurred outside urban areas.
Videos shared by Moroccans on social media portrayed buildings reduced to rubble and dust, while parts of Marrakech’s iconic red walls, enclosing the historic city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, suffered damage. Tourists and locals captured scenes of people evacuating restaurants amid the chaos, accompanied by pulsating club music.
Assessing the full extent of the damage and the casualties can be a time-consuming process, particularly following earthquakes, especially those that strike during the night.
Rather than returning to their homes, men, women, and children remained on the streets, apprehensive of aftershocks and other potential tremors that could threaten the structural integrity of their residences.
The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported a magnitude of 6.8 for the earthquake, which occurred at 11:11 p.m. (2211 GMT) and lasted several seconds. Morocco’s National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network, however, measured it at 7 on the Richter scale. Furthermore, the U.S. agency noted a magnitude-4.9 aftershock just 19 minutes later.
Discrepancies in initial measurements are not unusual, though both readings mark one of Morocco’s most powerful earthquakes in recent memory. Although North Africa is not typically prone to earthquakes, a devastating magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near Agadir in 1960, resulting in thousands of fatalities.
The epicenter of Friday’s earthquake was situated high in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech. It was also in close proximity to Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, and Oukaimeden, a renowned Moroccan ski resort.
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