In a tragic turn of events, a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, leaving devastation in its wake. The Interior Ministry reported a preliminary death toll of at least 296 people, with 153 individuals sustaining injuries. The majority of the casualties occurred in remote mountainous regions, posing significant challenges for rescue operations.
Marrakech, the nearest major city to the epicenter, bore the brunt of the quake. Within the UNESCO World Heritage site of the old city, several buildings collapsed, and a mosque minaret crumbled, scattering rubble onto the streets. The catastrophe also claimed the lives of five members of a single family, according to a local source.
Residents of Asni, a village near the epicenter, faced widespread damage to their homes. Urgent efforts were underway to extract individuals trapped under the debris. In Taroudant, west of the epicenter, residents experienced aftershocks, intensifying panic and prompting evacuations.
The Moroccan geophysical center identified the earthquake’s epicenter in the Ighil area of the High Atlas, situated about 70 kilometers southwest of Marrakech. This catastrophe stands as the deadliest in Morocco since the 2004 tremor near Al Hoceima, which claimed the lives of over 600 people.
Marrakech’s historic old city bore the brunt of the disaster, with numerous houses collapsing and sections of the medieval city wall displaying significant cracks and falling debris. Ambulances rushed to the scene to aid the injured, while fearful residents opted to remain outdoors, fearing subsequent quakes.
Both Rabat, approximately 350 kilometers north of the epicenter, and the coastal town of Imsouane, 180 kilometers west of Rabat, experienced widespread panic and evacuations. Videos circulated on social media depicted individuals fleeing shopping centers, restaurants, and apartment buildings.
The U.S. Geological Survey provided a magnitude of 6.8 for the earthquake, highlighting its relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers. The Moroccan government has issued an appeal for calm, confirming the affected provinces as Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant. The situation is dynamic, with ongoing efforts focused on rescue and relief operations.