Search and rescue efforts continue in Morocco as the North African country grapples with the aftermath of a powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the High Atlas mountain range on Friday night, claiming the lives of at least 2,012 people and injuring another 2,059, according to the latest figures released by the country’s interior ministry. Of those injured, 1,404 are reported to be in critical condition.
The earthquake, which occurred at 11:11 pm local time on Friday 8 September, has left a trail of devastation in its wake. The epicentre was located approximately 72 kilometres southwest of the ancient city of Marrakesh, a city renowned for its vibrant culture and tourism industry.
The most severe impact was borne by the rural mountain communities, where access is often challenging even on ordinary days. This difficult terrain has made search and rescue operations even more difficult.
For Morocco, this earthquake is the most catastrophic event in years, with the last comparable disaster occurring in 2004 when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the port city of Al-Hoceima, resulting in the loss of approximately 630 lives.
According to the US Geological Survey, it is also the strongest to hit within 500 kilometres of the region in over a century. Moreover, it ranks as the deadliest quake since the devastating Agadir earthquake of 1960, which claimed the lives of nearly 12,000 people.
The ancient city of Marrakesh, known for its iconic Medina and city walls that have enchanted tourists for generations, absorbed a significant portion of the earthquake’s force. Many centuries-old structures were unable to withstand the violent tremors, leading to extensive damage. Additionally, the Tinmal Mosque in the High Atlas mountains, an architectural gem showcasing Almohad design, suffered severe damage in the quake.
The country’s King Mohammed VI has declared three days of national mourning in response to the devastating calamity.