More than 1,300 killed and hundreds injured after 6.8-magnitude earthquake hits Marrakesh

9 September 2023, 07:41 | Updated: 9 September 2023, 22:28

A powerful earthquake has hit Morocco
A powerful earthquake has hit Morocco. Picture: Getty

By Emma Soteriou and Chay Quinn

More than 1,300 people have been killed and hundreds more injured after a powerful earthquake hit Marrakesh in Morocco.

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Footage shared online showed people screaming as they fled from collapsing buildings, with a huge cloud of dust rising in Marrakesh - a Unesco World Heritage site.

The devastating scenes also showed locals coming together to rescue those trapped in rubble while huge crowds gathered in open areas across the city to rest for the night.

The death toll had already surpassed 632 in the early hours of Saturday while a further 329 people were injured and sent to hospitals for treatment, state TV reported.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11.11pm local time, with shaking that lasted several seconds.

Morocco's National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale.

The tremor's epicentre struck near the town of Ighil, roughly 70 kilometres south of Marrakech.

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Rescuers are working to reach those still trapped in remote areas of Morocco, after a six point eight magnitude earthquake.

Rescuers are trying to reach people trapped in remote areas, after what's believed to be the country's deadliest earthquake in more than six decades.

The UK says it's ready to assist in any way needed while France, Spain and Israel have offered to help with the search and rescue.

Roads near the quake's epicentre were jammed with vehicles and blocked with collapsed rocks, local media reported.

The USGS said the epicentre was 18 kilometres (11 miles) below the Earth's surface, while Morocco's seismic agency put it at 8 kilometres (5 miles) down. In either case, such shallow quakes are more dangerous.

The full death toll of the most powerful quake to hit Morocco in 120 years will not be known until rescuers complete the challenging journey to the remote mountain villages that were the hardest hit.

Rishi Sunak said his thoughts are with everyone affected by the "terrible" earthquake.

"The UK stands ready to support our Moroccan friends," the Prime Minister wrote on social media, in a message that echoed that of Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

Mr Cleverly pledged support in "whatever way we can".

Rather than return to concrete buildings, men, women and children stayed out in the streets worried about aftershocks and other reverberations that could cause their homes to sway.

The US agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.

Though earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near Agadir and caused thousands of deaths in 1960.

National Institute of Geophysics' head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning, Lahcen Mhanni, told 2M TV that the earthquake was "exceptional".

He said: "Mountainous regions in general do not produce earthquakes of this size.

"It is the strongest earthquake recorded in the region."

Rishi Sunak said the UK stands ready to support Morocco after it was hit by a deadly earthquake.

On social media, the Prime Minister said: "My thoughts are with everyone affected by the terrible earthquake in Morocco last night.

"The UK stands ready to support our Moroccan friends."

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: "Devastating news of a substantial earthquake just outside Marrakesh, Morocco.

"The UK is continuing to support British nationals in the region.

"We stand ready to help our Moroccan friends in whatever way we can."

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