Devastating Earthquake Strikes Morocco, Claiming Over 1,000 Lives and Causing Widespread Destruction

A devastating earthquake has struck the High Atlas mountains in Morocco, resulting in a tragic loss of over 1,000 lives as buildings crumbled, and residents fled their trembling homes across various urban centers and rural areas.

The final casualty count remains uncertain as rescue teams face daunting challenges navigating treacherous roads strewn with boulders to reach the remote mountain communities most severely affected. The Moroccan Ministry of Interior reported a staggering toll on Saturday afternoon, with at least 1,037 fatalities and another 1,204 individuals sustaining injuries.

In Marrakech, the nearest major city to the earthquake’s epicenter, reports emerged of structural collapses within the historic city center, a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Initial accounts mentioned the partial collapse of a towering minaret overlooking Djemaa el-Fna, a bustling market square and a prominent attraction for tourists. This incident resulted in two injuries before people sought refuge in the square’s open space.

Television broadcasts revealed scenes of devastation, with rubble and ruptured pipelines littering the streets of Marrakech. Terrified residents spilled into the thoroughfares after the earthquake struck at precisely 11:11 pm on Friday.

Local authorities reported that the majority of fatalities occurred in remote mountainous regions, making access for rescuers exceptionally challenging.

Morocco’s geophysical center indicated that the earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2, struck in the Ighil area. In contrast, the US Geological Survey recorded a slightly lower magnitude of 6.8, remarking that it occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 11.5 miles (18.5 kilometers). Ighil, a region characterized by its mountainous terrain and small farming communities, is situated approximately 40 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of Marrakech. The earthquake occurred shortly after 11 pm local time.

In Marrakech, some densely packed houses in the historic city succumbed to the quake, prompting residents to engage in manual efforts to clear debris as they awaited heavy machinery assistance.

Footage from the medieval city’s fortified walls depicted significant cracks and fallen sections, with rubble strewn across the streets. In Essaouira, located 124 miles (200 kilometers) west of Marrakech, a resident reported: “We heard screams at the time of the tremor. People are in the squares, in the cafes, preferring to sleep outside. Pieces of facades have fallen.”

Reports indicated that internet connectivity in Marrakech suffered disruptions due to regional power outages, as reported by the global internet monitoring organization, NetBlocks.

This earthquake is another reminder of Morocco’s vulnerability to seismic activity, particularly in its northern regions, attributable to its geographical location between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates. The tremors were felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to reports from the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria’s Civil Defence agency, responsible for emergency response.