State-run Al-Awla TV showed on Saturday that several buildings had collapsed near the epicenter.
A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Morocco on Friday night, killing nearly 300 people and forcing many residents to spend the night on the streets, in what the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said was the strongest tremor to hit part of the North African country. For more than a century.
The USGS said the quake, which struck at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.4 miles) in Morocco’s High Atlas mountain range after 11 p.m. local time, was centered about 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of the city of Marrakech. 840,000 people and is a popular tourist destination.
At least 296 people were killed and 153 injured, Morocco’s interior ministry said on Saturday.
Most of the deaths occurred in mountainous areas that were difficult to reach, Reuters reported, citing a local official.
The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces warned that residents could still be affected by the tremors.
“We remind you of the need to act with caution because of the risk of repercussions,” wrote the military on X, later known as Twitter.
Friday night’s earthquake was unusually strong in that part of Morocco, the USGS said.
“An earthquake of this magnitude in this region is unusual, but not unexpected. Since 1900, no M6 (magnitude 6) and larger earthquakes have occurred within 500 km of this earthquake, and only 9 M5 (magnitude 5) and larger earthquakes have occurred,” the USGS reported. .
“Significant damage is likely and devastation is widespread,” the US agency predicted. Many people live in “highly earthquake-prone” buildings.
State-run Al-Awla TV on Saturday showed several buildings collapsed near the epicenter and reported that thousands of people had fled their homes after the country’s National Geophysical Agency warned of aftershocks.
Montasir Idri, a local resident, told Reuters that most of the houses in the mountain village of Asni, near the epicenter, were damaged.
“Our neighbors are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using the means available in the village,” he said.
Tremors were felt further west near Taroudant, where a resident was evacuated from his home and aftershocks followed the initial tremor, Reuters reported.
“The earth shook for about 20 seconds. The doors opened and closed automatically as I rushed down from the second floor,” teacher Hameed Afkar told Reuters.
Maro state-run Al-Awla TV showed several buildings collapsed near the epicenter on Saturday.
In Marrakech’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, some houses had collapsed and people were moving debris by hand as they waited for heavy equipment, local resident Id Wajis Hassan told Reuters news agency.
Brahim Himmi, another Marrakesh resident, told Reuters he saw ambulances coming from the old city and saw several building facades damaged. He said people are scared and staying outside in case of another earthquake.
“The chandelier fell from the roof and I ran out. I’m still on the road with my children and we’re scared,” Houda Hafsi, a 43-year-old resident of Marrakech, told Reuters.
A former imperial city with a history dating back almost 1,000 years, Marrakech is tightly packed with medieval palaces, mosques, gardens and bustling markets. Its old city center is surrounded by red mud walls and filled with red sandstone buildings, which gave the city the nickname “Red City”.
The walls were first erected in the early 12th century and some of the ramparts were damaged in an earthquake, Al Awla TV reported.
Before the Covid pandemic, the Old City attracted nearly three million tourists in 2019.
In addition to its rich culture and history, Marrakech is Mokoro’s fourth largest city and a major economic center.
Tremors were also felt in the capital Rabat, about 350 km north of the High Atlas mountains, Reuters reported, citing witnesses.
Reuters contributed to this report.