Late Friday night, a formidable earthquake with a magnitude estimated between 6.8 and 7.2 struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, resulting in a tragic loss of life and significant structural damage.
The earthquake has claimed the lives of at least 296 individuals, while 153 people have been reported as injured in the initial assessment by the Interior Ministry. The impact has been particularly severe in remote mountainous regions, where access is challenging. The historic city of Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, bore the brunt of the devastation.
Numerous buildings, including a historic mosque’s minaret, collapsed, causing further damage by crushing cars below. Heartbreakingly, one family alone lost five of its members in the disaster.
The affected provinces include Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant, as reported by the Interior Ministry in a televised update.
Montasir Itri, a local resident from the village of Asni near the earthquake’s epicenter, described the overwhelming destruction in his community, stating, “Most houses here are damaged. We have neighbors trapped under rubble, and everyone is trying their best to help with whatever tools they have.” Additionally, residents have reported experiencing aftershocks, further intensifying their fear and uncertainty.
The earthquake’s magnitude has varied slightly in different reports, with Morocco’s geophysical center registering it at 7.2, while the US Geological Survey recorded a magnitude of 6.8. The shallow depth of 18.5 km exacerbated the impact. The affected region, Ighil, is approximately 70 km southwest of Marrakech, and the tremor occurred at around 11 PM local time.
This disaster marks Morocco’s most devastating earthquake since 2004 when another seismic event claimed the lives of over 600 people.
Houda Hafsi, 43, a resident of Marrakech, shared her harrowing experience, saying, “The chandelier dropped, and I fled. My kids and I still outside because terrified.” Dalila Fahem, another resident, reported finding cracks in her walls and damage to her furniture.
The earthquake’s effects felt far beyond its epicenter, with people in Rabat, 350 km to the north, and Imsouane, 180 km to the west, also leaving their homes due to the fear of potential aftershocks.
Videos circulating on social media capture the panic that ensued after the earthquake, showing residents rushing out of shopping centers, eateries, and apartments to seek safety outdoors.
In the wake of this catastrophic event, emergency response efforts are underway to provide aid and support to those affected. Local and international organizations are collaborating to ensure that affected communities receive the assistance they desperately need during this difficult time.