The death toll in a powerful earthquake around Marrakesh has more than doubled to 632 people, with a further 329 injured as authorities assess the damage, Moroccan government officials said.
Much like other earthquakes, casualty figures appear to be rising as the extent becomes more clear in rural and hard-to-reach areas.
The earthquake struck late on Friday night, killing hundreds of people and damaging buildings from villages in the Atlas Mountains to the historic city of Marrakesh.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry had said earlier on Saturday that at least 296 people had died.
Moroccan television showed scenes from the aftermath as many stayed outside fearing aftershocks.
Anxious families stood in streets or huddled on the pavement, some carrying children, blankets or other belongings.
Emergency workers looked for survivors in the rubble of buildings, their reflective yellow vests illuminating the night-time landscape.
Baskets, buckets and clothing could be seen amid scattered stones in the remains of one building.
Moroccan media reported that the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, one of the city’s most famed landmarks, suffered damage, but the extent was not immediately clear.
Local people also posted videos showing damage to parts of the famous red walls that surround the city, a Unesco World Heritage site.
The head of a town near the earthquake’s epicentre told Moroccan news site 2M that several homes in nearby towns had partly or totally collapsed, and electricity and roads were cut off in some places.
Abderrahim Ait Daoud, head of the town of Talat N’Yaaqoub, said authorities are working to clear roads in Al Haouz province to allow passage for ambulances and aid to populations affected, but said large distances between mountain villages mean it will take time to learn the extent of the damage.
Local media reported that roads leading to the mountain region around the epicentre were jammed with vehicles and blocked with collapsed rocks, slowing rescue efforts.
Messages of support began to roll in from around the world on Saturday.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz posted condolences on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, currently hosting the G20 summit of the world’s largest economies, wrote that “India is ready to offer all possible assistance to Morocco in this difficult time”.
A UN spokesperson said “the United Nations is ready to assist the government of Morocco in its efforts to assist the impacted population”.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11.11pm local time on Friday with shaking that lasted several seconds. The US agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.
The epicentre of Friday’s tremor was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz province, roughly 43 miles south of Marrakesh.
The USGS said the epicentre was 11 miles below the Earth’s surface while Morocco’s seismic agency put it at seven miles down. Such shallow quakes are more dangerous.
Friday’s quake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria’s Civil Defence agency, which oversees emergency response.
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