West News Wire: A magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck Morocco has resulted in at least 1,037 fatalities, more than 1,200 injuries, damage to historic structures, and panicked locals running from their houses into the streets in search of shelter.
The dead toll was announced on Saturday by Moroccan state television, which cited the Interior Ministry. 205 of the injured people were in a critical state.
The majority of the homes there, according to Montasir Itri, a local of the mountain community of Asni close to the epicentre. He stated, “Our neighbours are under the rubble, and people are frantically trying to rescue them using available means in the village.”
Residents of Marrakesh, the nearest big city to the epicentre, said some buildings collapsed in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Local television showed images of a fallen mosque minaret with rubble lying on smashed cars.
The Interior Ministry urged calm saying in a televised statement the quake hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakesh, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant.
The temblor hit shortly after 11pm local time (22:00 GMT) on Friday evening, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
According to the USGS, the epicentre was located in the Atlas Mountains, some 75 kilometres (44 miles) from Marrakesh, the country’s fourth-largest city.
Teams of searchers scrambled through crumbling structures in search of the trapped.
The interior ministry stated that “the Royal Armed Forces, local authorities, security services, and civil protection continue to mobilise and harness all means and capabilities in order to intervene, provide the necessary assistance, and assess the damage.”
The incident was described as a “horrific night” by Marrakesh-based journalist Noureddine Bazine.
“It was chaos the moment the earthquake happened, and we’re still trying to process what happened because it was so sudden,” he said to news channels. The old city of Marrakesh sustained the worst damage since the buildings there are weak and prone to collapsing.
According to local media, highways leading to the mountainous area surrounding the epicentre were clogged with cars and blocked by falling rocks, hampering rescue operations.
The mayor of a neighbouring town, Abderrahim Ait Daoud, informed the Moroccan news outlet 2M that numerous surrounding homes had partially or completely fallen and that roads and electricity had been cut off in several areas.
He added that authorities were attempting to clear roads in the province of al-Haouz so that ambulances and relief could reach the affected residents. It would take some time to determine the full scope of the devastation, he noted, because there are great distances between the mountain villages.
Moroccans posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust, and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakesh damaged.
Tourists and others posted videos of people screaming and evacuating restaurants in the city. Shocked residents in Marrakesh and Casablanca fled out of buildings and onto the streets.