A powerful earthquake, which struck central Morocco on the night of Friday September 8 to Saturday September 9, killed at least 296 people, according to authorities.
The National Center for Scientific and Technical Research (CNRST) based in Rabat specified that the earthquake had a magnitude of 7 degrees on the Richter scale and that its epicenter was located in the province of Al-Haouz, in the southwest of the tourist city of Marrakech.
“According to a provisional report, this earthquake led to the death of 296 people in the provinces and communes of Al-Haouz, Marrakech, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant,” the Ministry of the Interior said in a press release. According to the same source, 153 people were injured and hospitalized.
According to Moroccan media, this is the most powerful earthquake to hit the kingdom to date. The authorities “have mobilized all necessary means to intervene and come to the aid of the disaster areas,” added the interior press release.
According to images circulating on social networks and witnesses, the earthquake caused significant damage in several cities. In a locality in Al-Haouz province, a family was trapped in the rubble after their house collapsed, according to media reports.
A partially collapsed minaret in Djemaa El-Fna square
In addition to Marrakech, the tremor was felt in Rabat, Casablanca, Agadir and Essaouira, causing panic among the population. Many people have taken to the streets of these cities, fearing the collapse of their homes, according to images posted on social networks.
In photos and videos published by Internet users, we can see significant debris from homes in the alleys of the Marrakech medina. But also cars crushed by stones.
“I was in my bed when everything started shaking. I thought my bed was going to blow away. I went out into the street half naked and immediately went to see my riads. It was total chaos, a real disaster, madness,” Frenchman Michaël Bizet, 43, owner of three traditional houses in the old town of Marrakech, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on the phone.
“Around 11 p.m., we felt a very violent shake, I realized it was an earthquake. I saw buildings moving. We don't necessarily have the reflexes in this type of situation. Then I went out, there were a lot of people outside. People were all in shock and panic. The children were crying, the parents were distraught, "says AFP a resident of Marrakech, Abdelhak El Amrani, 33, reached by telephone.
According to images broadcast on the networks, part of a minaret collapsed in the famous Djemaa El-Fna square, the beating heart of Marrakech. The regional blood transfusion center in Marrakech called on residents to come to its premises on Saturday to donate blood for the injured.
Tremors felt in Algeria
“I was on my way home when the earthquake happened. My car went back and forth but I didn’t imagine for a single second that it was an earthquake,” says another resident of the city, Fayssal Badour, 58. “I stopped and realized the disaster. It was very serious what happened, it felt like a violently overflowing river. The screaming and crying were unbearable,” he adds.
The earthquake was also felt in several provinces in western neighboring Algeria, but Algerian civil defense said it did not cause any damage or casualties.
On February 24, 2004, an earthquake measuring 6.3 degrees on the Richter scale shook the province of Al Hoceima, 400 km northeast of Rabat, killing 628 people and causing significant material damage. And on February 29, 1960, an earthquake destroyed Agadir, on the country's west coast, and killed more than 12,000 people, or a third of the city's population.