Morocco declares three days of national mourning after more than 2,000 killed in 6.8-magnitude earthquake

10 September 2023, 07:39

More than 2,000 have died from the earthquake
More than 2,000 have died from the earthquake. Picture: Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Three days of national mourning have been declared in Morocco after an earthquake killed more than 2,000 people.

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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.

On Saturday evening, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI declared three days of national mourning.

Flags will fly at half-mast on all public buildings, according to state media.

The King also ordered shelter, food and support for survivors, calling on the armed forces to assist rescue teams.

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It comes after he 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 Marrakesh.

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.

The UK said it was ready to assist in any way needed while France, Spain and Israel 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.

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".

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."

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