Over 632 people have been confirmed dead in Morocco, following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake, the strongest recorded in the country in more than 120 years. The earthquake struck on Saturday morning, damaging buildings in major cities and sending panicked people pouring into the streets.
Many of the fatalities are said to be in hard-to-reach areas south of Marrakesh. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates the epicentre of the quake occurred in the Atlas mountains, some 75km (44 miles) from Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in the country. According to the country’s interior ministry, the earthquake killed people in the provinces and municipalities of al-Haouz, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant, adding that at least 329 people have been left badly injured.
The ministry also said the earthquake was felt in neighbouring Algeria and Portugal. Local television stations reported fallen mosque minarets, with rubble lying on smashed cars. Officials are working on clearing roads so ambulances and aid can reach those affected. However, long distances between mountain villages mean it will take time to learn of the full extent of the damage.
This is one of Morocco’s most devastating earthquakes in years. Although they are relatively rare, a 5.8 magnitude tremor in 1960 caused thousands of deaths. The number of people killed is expected to rise in the coming hours.