The death toll from a strong earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday night has risen to 1,037, the country’s Interior Ministry said on Saturday. The earthquake has also injured at least 1,204 people, according to the latest update from the ministry. A 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Morocco on Friday at 11:11 p.m. local time at a depth of 18.5 km, said the US Geological Survey. The epicentre of the earthquake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, some 70 km southwest of Marrakesh, Xinhua news agency reported.
The earthquake was felt in many cities across Morocco, including Rabat and Casablanca. Many houses collapsed in the cities of Taroudant and Marrakesh, local media reported. The earthquake damaged many buildings in the old city of Marrakesh, the nearest big city to the epicenter, and many residents had to spend the night in the open space for fear of potential aftershocks, said Zhang Kai, an overseas Chinese living in Marrakesh. Xinhua correspondents at Ouarzazate, about 190 km southeast of Marrakesh, saw residents taking shelter in an open space after the earthquake.
“There have been earthquakes before, but none of them were as strong as this one,” said a resident in Ouarzazate who requires anonymity. On the way from Ouarzazate to the epicenter, rocks and rubbles from the mountains and buildings were seen scattered along the road.
Rescuers have been sent to the quake-hit areas to search for survivors, local media reported. The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) announced on Saturday that it would provide the Moroccan Red Crescent with 200,000 U.S. dollars in cash as emergency humanitarian assistance to assist in its rescue operations. The RCSC said it would keep abreast of the relief needs in Morocco and pledged to offer assistance to the best of its ability.
Arab countries and organizations, including Arab League (AL), Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Tunisia, Algeria and Lebanon, on Saturday sent condolences to Morocco over the devastating earthquake. Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, secretary-general of the Cairo-based AL, said he hoped Morocco would quickly overcome the crisis. Hours after the strong earthquake hit the North African country, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday instructed his government to prepare assistance for Morocco, including planning to send an aid delegation to the area.