Africa

Morocco Earthquake: Over 1,000 Dead as Rescue Teams Comb for Survivors

Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in decades has killed more than 1,000 people, authorities said on Saturday, as troops and emergency services scrambled to reach remote mountain villages where casualties are still feared trapped.

The 6.8-magnitude quake struck late Friday in a mountainous area 72 kilometres (45 miles) southwest of tourist hotspot Marrakesh, the US Geological Survey reported.

With strong tremors also felt in the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira, the quake caused widespread damage and sent terrified residents and tourists scrambling to safety in the middle of the night.

“I was nearly asleep when I heard the doors and the shutters banging,” said Ghannou Najem, a Casablanca resident in her 80s who was visiting Marrakesh when the quake hit.

“I went outside in a panic. I thought I was going to die alone.”

In the mountain village of Moulay Brahim near the quake’s epicentre, rescue teams searched for survivors in the rubble of collapsed houses while residents began digging graves for the dead on a nearby hill, AFP correspondents reported.

The army set up a field hospital in the village and deployed “significant human and logistical resources” to support the rescue operation, state news agency MAP reported.

It was the strongest-ever quake to hit the North African kingdom, and one expert described it as the region’s “biggest in more than 120 years”.

“Where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough… so many collapse, resulting in high casualties,” said Bill McGuire, professor emeritus at Britain’s University College London.

Updated interior ministry figures on Saturday showed the quake killed at least 1,037 people, the vast majority in Al-Haouz, the epicentre, and Taroudant provinces.

Another 1,204 people were injured, including 721 in a critical condition, the ministry said.

Civil defence Colonel, Hicham Choukri – who is heading relief operations told state television the epicentre and strength of the earthquake have created “an exceptional emergency situation”.

Hope Ejairu

Hope Ejairu is a writer, sports analyst and journalist, with publications on print and digital media. He holds certifications in various media/journalism trainings, including AFP.

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