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Morocco hit by deadly earthquake near Marrakech killing at least 296

A powerful earthquake struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountains late on Friday, killing at least 296 people, destroying buildings and sending residents of major cities rushing from their homes.

The quake, which had a magnitude of 7 according to the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ), was the largest instrumentally recorded in Morocco’s modern history.

The epicenter was located about 70 km (40 miles) southwest of Marrakech, near the ski resort of Oukaimeden. The quake occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km (11.5 miles), which increased its impact on the surface.

The quake was felt in six countries, including Spain, Portugal, Algeria and Mauritania. It also triggered several aftershocks, the strongest of which had a magnitude of 4.9.


The Interior Ministry said the number of fatalities constituted a preliminary death toll and that 153 people had been injured. A local official said most deaths were in mountain areas that were hard to reach.

In Marrakech, some buildings collapsed in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and local television showed pictures of a fallen mosque minaret with rubble lying on smashed cars. Residents said they were frightened and stayed outside in case of another quake.

Footage of the medieval city wall showed big cracks in one section and parts that had fallen, with rubble lying on the street. Another Marrakech resident, Brahim Himmi, said there were cracks in his house and damage to his furniture.

Further west, near Taroudant, teacher Hamid Afkar said he had fled his home and there had been aftershocks following the initial quake.


“The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor,” he said.

Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicenter, said most houses there were damaged.

“Our neighbors are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village,” he said.

Morocco lies close to the boundary between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates, which causes frequent seismic activity in the region. The quake occurred as a result of shallow oblique-thrust faulting beneath the High Atlas mountain range.


The last major earthquake to hit Morocco was in 2004, when a magnitude 6.3 quake killed 628 people and injured 926 in Al Hoceima. A magnitude 7.3 quake affecting neighboring Algeria in 1980 killed 2,500 people.

The USGS described earthquakes in this region as “uncommon but not unexpected”.

The Moroccan authorities have declared a state of emergency and mobilized rescue teams to assist the affected areas. King Mohammed VI expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and ordered an investigation into the causes and consequences of the disaster.


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