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Deadliest Earthquake in Decades Strikes Morocco, Killing Over 1,000 People

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Deadliest Earthquake in Decades Strikes Morocco, Causing Widespread Damage

On Friday night, Morocco experienced the deadliest earthquake in decades, resulting in widespread damage and a tragic loss of life. The earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, struck a mountainous area 72 kilometers southwest of the popular tourist city of Marrakesh. The US Geological Survey reported that the quake occurred at 11:11 p.m. local time.

The impact of the earthquake was felt not only in Marrakesh but also in coastal cities such as Rabat, Casablanca, and Essaouira. The Ministry of Interior provided updated figures, revealing that at least 1,037 people lost their lives, with the majority of casualties occurring in Al Haouz, the epicenter of the quake, and the governorates of Taroudant. Additionally, 1,204 people sustained injuries, with 721 in critical condition.

The Devastating Aftermath

Civil Defense Colonel Hisham Shukri, who leads relief operations, described the situation as an “exceptional emergency” due to the earthquake’s epicenter and intensity. Many residents and tourists in Marrakesh were caught off guard by the violent tremors. Abdelhak Al-Omrani, a local resident, shared his experience of witnessing buildings shaking and people panicking. The earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in the country, left both children and adults in a state of shock.

According to experts, this earthquake is the largest to hit the region in over 120 years. Bill McGuire, an emeritus professor at University College London, explained that the rarity of devastating earthquakes often results in buildings not being adequately fortified, leading to collapses and a high number of casualties.

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Firsthand Accounts of the Chaos

Engineer Faisal Baddour felt the earthquake three times in his building, emphasizing the fear and panic it caused among residents. Michael Bizet, a Frenchman who owns traditional houses in Marrakesh, recounted the chaos and disaster that unfolded during the earthquake. Videos and images posted on social media showed collapsed walls and a minaret in Jemaa El Fna Square.

Local residents sought safety in the square, fearing aftershocks, with some spending the night there. Hoda Otasaf, one of the locals, expressed his shock and relief at being safe but mourned the loss of several family members. Faisal Baddour, another Marrakesh resident, recalled the unbearable screams and cries that filled the aftermath of the earthquake.

Response and Potential Damage

The Interior Ministry assured the public that all necessary resources were mobilized to assist the affected areas. The Marrakesh Regional Blood Transfusion Center appealed for blood donations to help the injured. The city experienced power outages, leading to a disruption in internet access.

The USGS PAGER system issued a “red alert” for economic losses, predicting severe damage and widespread consequences. European leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, offered their condolences. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, who established diplomatic relations with Morocco in 2020, pledged any necessary assistance.

Although neighboring Algeria felt the earthquake, no damage or casualties were reported. Morocco has experienced devastating earthquakes in the past, including a 2004 earthquake in Al Hoceima that claimed hundreds of lives and a 1960 earthquake in Agadir that killed over 12,000 people. In 1980, Algeria suffered a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that resulted in the deaths of 2,500 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands.

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