Powerful earthquake kills at least 296 in Morocco, govt says

A rare and powerful tremor with a magnitude of 6.9 struck Morocco, and local authorities are working to rescue people under the wreckage; Israel to offer humanitarian assistance, in talks of sending a rescue team to the country

A powerful earthquake struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountains late on Friday, killing at least 296 people, destroying buildings, and sending residents of major cities rushing from their homes.

The Interior Ministry said the number constituted a preliminary death toll and that 153 people had been injured. A local official said most deaths were in mountain areas that were hard to reach.

Residents of Marrakech, the nearest big city to the epicenter, said some buildings had collapsed in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and local television showed pictures of a fallen mosque minaret with rubble lying on smashed cars.

The Interior Ministry urged calm, saying in its televised statement on the death toll that the quake had hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant.

Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicenter, said most houses there were damaged. “Our neighbors are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village,” he said.

Morocco’s geophysical center said the quake struck in the Ighil area of the High Atlas with a magnitude of 7.2. The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 6.8 and said it was at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km (11.5 miles).

Ighil, a mountainous area with small farming villages, is about 70 km (40 miles) southwest of Marrakech. The quake struck just after 11 p.m. (2200 GMT).
In Marrakech, some houses in the tightly packed old city had collapsed and people were working hard by hand to remove debris while they waited for heavy equipment, said resident Id Waaziz Hassan.
Footage of the medieval city wall showed big cracks in one section and parts that had fallen, with rubble lying on the street.
The earthquake is Morocco’s deadliest since a 2004 tremor near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains killed over 600 people.
His office is currently in talks with Moroccan authorities to explore the options for providing humanitarian aid and dispatching a rescue team as needed. The Foreign Ministry added, “We are actively working to establish contact with all Israelis in Morocco to ensure their safety.”
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