RABAT, Morocco (AP) — A powerful earthquake struck Morocco late Friday night, killing over 1,000 people and damaging buildings and historic landmarks in major cities.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry said early Saturday that at least 296 people had died in the provinces near the quake. Additionally, 153 injured people were sent to hospitals for treatment. The ministry wrote that most damage occurred outside of cities and towns. By Saturday afternoon, the death toll was put at over 1,000.
Moroccans posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust, and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakesh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, damaged. Tourists and others posted videos of people screaming and evacuating restaurants in the city as throbbing club music played.
Reports on damage and any casualties often take time to filter in after many earthquakes, particularly those that hit in the middle of the night.
Rather than return to concrete buildings, men, women and children stayed out in the streets worried about aftershocks and other reverberations that could cause their homes to sway.
The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m., with shaking that lasted several seconds. Morocco’s National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale. The US agency reported a magnitude-4.9 aftershock that hit 19 minutes later.
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Variations in early measurements are common, although either reading would be Morocco’s strongest in years. Though earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near Agadir and caused thousands of deaths in 1960.
The epicenter of Friday’s tremor was high in the Atlas Mountains roughly 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech. It was also near Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa and Oukaimeden, a popular Moroccan ski resort.
The USGS said the epicenter was 18 kilometers (11 miles) below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency put it at 8 kilometers (5 miles) down.
The quake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria’s Civil Defense agency, which oversees emergency response.