By Ahmed Eljechtimi and Abdulhak Balhaki

AMIZMIZ, Morocco (Reuters) – A strong earthquake in Morocco killed more than 800 people and injured hundreds more. It was the country’s deadliest tremor in more than six decades. Houses collapsed in remote mountain villages, where rescuers searched for survivors in the rubble.

The magnitude 7.2 quake struck late Friday evening in Morocco’s High Atlas (NYSE:). According to the Interior Ministry, 820 people were killed and another 672 injured. Most of the deaths occurred in mountainous areas outside Marrakesh, the city closest to the epicenter, the updated figure showed.

In the village of Amizmiz, about 60 kilometers south of Marrakesh, rescue workers dug through the rubble.

“When I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet and the house tilting, I rushed to get my children out. But my neighbors couldn’t,” said Mohamed Azaw. “Unfortunately, no one from this family has been found alive. The father and son were found dead and they are still looking for the mother and daughter.”

About 20 men, including firefighters and soldiers in combat fatigues, stood on the ruins of a house in Amizmiz, trying to remove rubble, pieces of carpet and furniture sticking out of gaps between concrete slabs.

In Marrakesh, where 13 people were dead, residents spent the night outdoors, afraid to go home.

Buildings in the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were damaged. In Djemaa al-Fna Square, the heart of the old city, the minaret of a mosque collapsed.

Injured people from surrounding areas streamed into Marrakesh to be treated.

State television footage from the Moulay Ibrahim area, about 40 km (25 miles) south of Marrakesh, showed dozens of houses collapsing at the foot of a mountain and residents digging graves as groups of women stood in the street.

Montasir Itri, a resident of Asni village near the epicenter, said most houses there were damaged. “Our neighbors are under the rubble and people are working hard to save them using the resources available in the village,” he said.

Further west, near Taroudant, teacher Hamid Afkar said he fled his home and felt aftershocks. “The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and closed on their own as I stormed down the stairs from the second floor,” he said.

In Marrakesh, residents described desperate scenes as people fled for safety. “Because of the shock and also because the old town is made up of old houses, I still can’t sleep in the house,” said Jaouhari Mohamed, an old town resident.

“If one falls, others will collapse,” he said.

The Interior Ministry urged calm, saying in a televised statement that the quake hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakesh, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant.

According to Morocco’s geophysical center, the quake struck shortly after 11 p.m. (2200 GMT) in the Ighil area of ​​the High Atlas.

According to the US Geological Survey, it was the deadliest earthquake in Morocco since 1960, when an earthquake was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people.

Ighil, a mountainous region with small farming villages, lies about 70 km (40 miles) southwest of Marrakech.

Spanish television RTVE reported that tremors from the earthquake were felt in Huelva and Jaen in Andalusia, southern Spain.

Governments around the world expressed their solidarity and offered help. Turkey, where powerful earthquakes killed more than 50,000 people in February, agreed to provide support.

The annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are scheduled to take place in Marrakech at the beginning of October.


In Marrakech, some houses collapsed in the densely packed old town and people used their hands to clear debris as they waited for heavy equipment, said resident Id Waaziz Hassan.

People also fled their homes in the capital Rabat, about 350 km north of Ighil, and in the coastal town of Imsouane, about 180 km west, fearing a stronger quake, according to Reuters witnesses.

In Casablanca, about 250 km north of Ighil, people who spent the night on the streets were too afraid to return to their homes.

“The house was shaking violently, everyone was scared,” said resident Mohamed Taqafi.

Videos shared on social media of the quake’s immediate aftermath, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed people fearfully running from a shopping center, restaurants and apartment buildings and gathering outside.

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