Rabat, (His). A powerful earthquake struck the High Atlas mountains in Morocco late Friday, causing massive damage. 296 people lost their lives. All the buildings have been destroyed. People in major cities have had to leave their homes.
Media reports quoting Morocco’s Interior Ministry say that according to preliminary information, 296 people have died and 153 have been injured. The death toll may increase. A local official said most of the deaths occurred in hilly areas where immediate access was difficult.
Reports quoted people in Marrakesh, a large city close to the epicenter, as saying that some buildings in the old city, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, have collapsed. A local television showed footage of the collapsed mosque minaret and debris strewn over damaged cars.
The Interior Ministry urged calm in a televised statement on the death toll. The ministry said the earthquake most affected the provinces of Al Houz, Ouarzazate, Marrakesh, Azilal, Chichoua and Taroudant.
Montasir Itari from the mountainous village of Asni, near the epicenter of the earthquake, said that most of the houses in his village have been damaged. Neighbors are buried under the debris. The villagers are working hard to save them with their resources.
Hamid Afkar, a teacher who lives in a nearby village, said the ground shook for about 20 seconds. He ran down from the second floor of the house. The doors were opening and closing on their own.
Morocco’s geophysics center said the quake struck in the Ighil region of the High Atlas. Its intensity on the Richter scale was 7.2. The US Geological Survey reported the earthquake’s intensity as 6.8. He stated that it was at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.5 mi).