Over 1,000 people were killed and hundreds were injured after an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 shook Morocco late Friday night, the Associated Press reported.
The epicentre of the earthquake was the High Atlas mountain, located 72 kilometres southwest of the city of Marrakesh. The first shock came at at 11.11 pm and was followed by an aftershock of 4.9 magnitude 19 minutes later, according to the United States Geological Survey.
This was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in over 60 years, according to Reuters. In 1960, an earthquake in the western part of the country was estimated to have left at least 12,000 people dead.
Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department at the National Institute of Geophysics, told the Associated Press that the earthquake was exceptional. “Mountainous regions in general do not produce earthquakes of this size,” he said.
The tremors were also felt in the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira. Videos that have emerged on social media show people screaming and evacuating restaurants in Marrakesh.
“I could see buildings moving,” Abdelhak El Amrani, a 33-year-old, told AFP. “We don’t necessarily have the reflexes for this type of situation. Then I went outside and there were a lot of people there. People were all in shock and panic. The children were crying and the parents were distraught.”
Residents also narrated accounts of some buildings collapsing in the city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visuals showed part of a minaret collapsed on the famous Jemaa el-Fna square.
Local media reported that the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, one of the city’s most famed landmarks, has suffered damage. There is also damage to parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakesh.