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Morocco earthquake death toll hits 2000 and more

Morocco earthquake death toll hits 2000 and more

Moroccan deadliest earthquake in more than six decades has killed more than 2,000 people so far and laid waste to villages while survivors sleep in the open on the High Atlas Mountains on Saturday.

Neighbours were still searching for survivors buried on the slopes, where houses of mud brick, stone and rough wood were cracked open and mosque minarets were toppled by the quake that struck late on Friday.

The historic old city of Marrakech also suffered extensive damage.

The Interior Ministry said 2,012 people had been killed and 2,059 injured, including 1,404 in critical condition. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 6.8 with an epicentre some 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech.

In the village of Amizmiz near the epicentre, rescue workers picked through rubble with their bare hands. Fallen masonry blocked narrow streets. Outside a hospital, around 10 bodies lay covered in blankets as grieving relatives stood nearby.

Rescuers stood atop the pancaked floors of one building in Amizmiz, bits of carpet and furniture protruding from the rubble. A long queue formed outside the only open shop as people sought supplies. Underlining the challenges facing rescuers, fallen boulders blocked a road from Amizmiz to a nearby village.

Nearly all the houses in the area of Asni, some 40 km south of Marrakech, were damaged, and villagers were preparing to spend the night outside. Food was in short supply as roofs had collapsed on kitchens, said villager Mohamed Ouhammo.

The village of Tansghart in the Ansi area, on the side of a valley where the road from Marrakech rises up into the High Atlas, was the worst hit of any Reuters saw. Its once-pretty houses, clinging to a steep hillside, were cracked open by the shaking ground. Those still standing were missing chunks of wall or plaster. Two mosque minarets had fallen.

Tremors were felt as far away as Huelva and Jaen in southern Spain. The World Health Organization said more than 300,000 people were affected in Marrakech and surrounding areas.

RUNNING FOR SHELTER

Street camera footage in Marrakech showed the moment the earth began to shake, as men suddenly looked around and jumped up, and others ran for shelter into an alleyway and then fled as dust and debris tumbled around them.

In the heart of the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a mosque minaret had fallen in Jemaa al-Fna Square. Some houses in the tightly packed old city collapsed and people used their hands to remove debris while they waited for heavy equipment, said resident Id Waaziz Hassan.

Morocco declared three days of national mourning, during which the national flag will be flown at half staff throughout the country, the royal court said on Saturday.

The Moroccan armed forces will deploy rescue teams to provide affected areas with clean drinking water, food supplies, tents and blankets, it added.

Turkey, where powerful earthquakes in February killed more than 50,000 people, was among nations expressing solidarity and offering to provide support.

Algeria, which broke off ties with Morocco in 2021 after escalating tensions between the countries focused on the Western Sahara conflict, said it would open airspace for humanitarian and medical flights.

The quake was recorded at a depth of 18.5 km, typically more destructive than deeper quakes of the same magnitude. It was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 when a quake was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Mohammad Kashani, associate professor of structural and earthquake engineering at the University of Southampton, compared scenes of the aftermath to images from Turkey in February: “The area is full of old and historical buildings, which are mainly masonry. The collapsed reinforced concrete structures that I saw … were either old or substandard.”

Marrakech is due to host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank from Oct. 9.

An IMF spokesperson, asked about the planned meetings, said: “Our sole focus at this time is on the people of Morocco and the authorities who are dealing with this tragedy.”

Reuters

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