The death toll from the powerful earthquake that struck Morocco rose to 2,012 state television reported early Sunday citing the interior ministry.
The number of injured rose to 2,059, including 1,404 people who are in a critical condition, it added.
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Morocco’s interior ministry said early Saturday that most damage occurred outside of cities and towns.
Watch: A video shows the aftermath of the earthquake that hit several regions in Morocco, leaving at least 296 people dead. #MoroccoEarthquake— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) September 9, 2023
Read more: https://t.co/MKy8gVkSXp pic.twitter.com/kac9iPyrc3
Moroccans posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust, and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site, damaged. Tourists and others posted videos of people screaming and evacuating restaurants in the city as throbbing club music played.
The head of a town near the earthquake’s epicenter 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 epicenter were jammed with vehicles and blocked with collapsed rocks, slowing rescue efforts.
The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m. (2211 GMT), with shaking that lasted several seconds. The US agency reported a magnitude-4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.
The epicenter of Friday’s tremor was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, roughly 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech.
The USGS said the epicenter was 18 kilometers (11 miles) below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency put it at 8 kilometers (5 miles) down. In either case, such shallow quakes are more dangerous.
Earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa. Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department at the National Institute of Geophysics, told 2M TV that the earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in the mountain region.
In 1960, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near the Moroccan city of Agadir and caused thousands of deaths.
The Agadir quake prompted changes in construction rules in Morocco, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors.
Watch: Footage shows the aftermath of an earthquake that struck Morocco in the early morning hours, leaving at least 296 people dead. #MoroccoEarthquake— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) September 9, 2023
Read more here: https://t.co/MKy8gVkSXp pic.twitter.com/1vYMNEbyJA
In 2004, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima left more than 600 dead.
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 Defense agency, which oversees emergency response.