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Earthquake Shakes Morocco: Over 800 Dead

Rare, powerful earthquake in Morocco kills over 800 people and causes extensive damage in Marrakech and surrounding areas.

A devastating earthquake of rare intensity struck Morocco on Friday night, resulting in the deaths of over 800 people and causing extensive damage to buildings across the country. The death toll is expected to rise as rescue operations continue and reach remote areas. The aftermath of the earthquake has left people fearful of returning to unstable buildings, with reports of dishes and wall hangings falling, people being knocked off their feet, and intense vibrations causing panic. Emergency workers are tirelessly searching for survivors amidst the rubble, with images of collapsed buildings and damaged homes circulating on local media. The iconic Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, built in the 12th century, has also suffered damage, along with parts of the famous red walls surrounding the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Interior Ministry of Morocco reported that at least 800 people have died, primarily in Marrakech and five provinces near the epicenter of the earthquake. Additionally, 672 people have been injured. The head of a town near the epicenter expressed that several homes in nearby towns have either partially or completely collapsed, and electricity and roads have been cut off in some areas. The Moroccan military and emergency services have mobilized aid efforts, but rescue operations have been hindered by blocked roads and collapsed rocks in the mountainous region surrounding the epicenter. However, relief efforts are underway, with trucks carrying essential supplies en route to the affected areas.

Despite the devastation, life in Marrakech has gradually resumed, with ambulances and motorcycles back on the streets. However, remnants of the earthquake, such as cracked clay ochre walls and fragments scattered on sidewalks, serve as a reminder of the recent disaster. Messages of support have poured in from around the world, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing their condolences and offering assistance. The European Union and the United Nations have also pledged their readiness to provide aid and support.

The earthquake, which struck at 11:11 p.m., had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A magnitude 4.9 aftershock occurred 19 minutes later. The epicenter was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, approximately 70 kilometers south of Marrakech. Shallow earthquakes, like this one, are known to be more dangerous. The Marrakech-Safi region, home to over 4.5 million people, has reported severe damages and casualties. North Africa is not prone to earthquakes, making this event particularly significant. Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department at the National Institute of Geophysics, stated that this earthquake is the strongest ever recorded in the mountain region.

The history of earthquakes in Morocco includes the devastating 1960 tremor near Agadir, which caused thousands of deaths and led to changes in construction regulations. However, many buildings, especially rural homes, are still not built to withstand such tremors. In 2004, another earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 struck near the coastal city of Al Hoceima, resulting in over 600 fatalities. The impact of Friday's earthquake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria.

As Morocco grapples with the aftermath of this tragic event, the international community has rallied to offer support and assistance. The focus now remains on rescue and relief efforts, as well as assessing the full extent of the damage caused by this powerful earthquake.

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