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Devastating Earthquake in Morocco Claims 296 Lives

A powerful earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale has struck central Morocco, resulting in a tragic loss of at least 296 lives, according to official reports from the country’s interior ministry.

The epicenter of this seismic event was located in the High Atlas Mountains, approximately 71 kilometers (44 miles) southwest of Marrakesh, at a depth of 18.5 kilometers, as indicated by the US Geological Survey. The earthquake occurred at 23:11 local time (22:11 GMT) and was followed by a 4.9 magnitude aftershock just 19 minutes later.

The casualties extended beyond Marrakesh, with fatalities reported in several areas to the south, as confirmed by the ministry. In a statement, the ministry stated, “According to a preliminary report, the earthquake claimed the lives of 296 individuals in the provinces and municipalities of al-Haouz, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant.” The report also noted that 153 people sustained injuries and were admitted to hospitals.

Unverified video clips circulating on social media, including X (formerly Twitter), depict the harrowing aftermath of the disaster, showing damaged buildings, trembling structures, and streets strewn with rubble. Panic and alarm can be observed as people flee the scene, and some navigate through clouds of dust.

Residents in Marrakesh’s historic old city reported that certain buildings had collapsed, according to accounts received by Reuters. Concerned locals opted to stay outside their homes, fearing potent aftershocks that could further destabilize the city.

One resident described the experience as a “violent tremor” and witnessed buildings visibly shifting. Abdelhak El Amrani, speaking to the AFP agency, recalled the widespread shock and panic that gripped the population. He mentioned that power and phone lines were disrupted for approximately ten minutes.

Additional reports from AFP indicated that a family was trapped beneath the debris of a collapsed house, and several individuals in the city required hospitalization.

Despite its remote location in the High Atlas Mountains, the earthquake’s relatively shallow epicenter resulted in tremors felt as far away as the capital, Rabat, situated some 350 kilometers (217 miles) from the epicenter. Other cities, including Casablanca and Essaouira, also reported feeling the impact.

Given the remoteness of the mountain villages near the epicenter, concerns arise regarding the survival of simple structures, and it may take some time to ascertain the extent of casualties in these areas.