At least 2,012 people were dead and 1,404 critically injured after a powerful earthquake struck the historic city of Marrakech late on September 8, according to a statement from the Ministry of Interior.
A powerful earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, according to the US Geological Survey, the strongest earthquake in 100 years, struck at 11:11 pm local time sending local residents fleeing into the street as buildings started to collapse.
The shaking lasted for several seconds, leaving residents in shock amidst the debris. Morocco's National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network said the earthquake was even more powerful with a magnitude of 7.
Three days of mourning have been declared in the country.
Amongst the buildings damaged was the historic Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh. The building’s tall tower is an icon in the skyline and locals feared the structure could collapse in the heart of the ancient city.
Rescue workers were quickly deployed to dig survivors out of the rubble, sending the death toll steadily mounting during the day as more victims were found under the rubble. Rescue work was hindered by several aftershocks. A second shock hit 19 minutes later with a magnitude of 4.9, further unsettling the affected region.
The toll is expected to rise further as rescuers dig through the rubble of collapsed houses in remote areas of the High Atlas mountains. These remote areas had the highest number of fatalities, with homes made from mud bricks.
Videos shared by Moroccans depict scenes of destruction, with buildings reduced to rubble and historic sites, such as the red walls surrounding Marrakech's old city, bearing significant damage. Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been deeply affected by this catastrophe.
The tremors of the high intensity earthquake were also felt in the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca, Agadir and Essaouira, where many panicked residents took to the streets in the middle of the night, fearing that their homes would collapse.
The quake is the worst in Morocco since a 1960 quake. At that time, the earthquake destroyed Agadir and wiped off one-third of the city population by killing more than 15,000 people.
The epicentre was in the High Atlas mountains, about 72 kilometres southwest of Marrakech. The earthquake was felt in several countries in North Africa, including Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The hardest-hit regions are the province of Al Haouz and the southwestern city of Taroudant.
King Mohammed VI announced three days of national mourning.
Millions of terrified Moroccans spent a second night in the streets away from the damaged buildings. The Moroccan authorities warned residents to pay close attention to follow-up tremors. The authorities quickened relief efforts and offered food, water and blankets to residents in the poorest areas of the city, as per orders of King Mohammed VI.
The 6.8-magnitude quake is Morocco’s deadliest in six decades.
France has expressed its willingness to assist Morocco in the wake of this tragedy. French President Emmanuel Macron, along with other world leaders, has offered support for the rescue efforts. However, the formal request for aid from Morocco is still pending, as Moroccan authorities are currently assessing the situation, reports Al Jazeera.
After massive devastation due to the earthquake, several nations stepped forward to offer help to the nation.
US President Joe Biden expressed his condolences to the victims of the earthquake. He also said that the US officials had been in contact with Morocco to offer help. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also sent offers of help from the floor of the G20 summit currently taking place in New Delhi.
Turkey, France, Germany and Israel have also stepped forward to offer help.