7.2 Earthquake Devastates Morocco; Over 820 Lives Lost

Tragedy struck on Friday night as a massive earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 rocked Morocco, resulting in the death of over 820 people and injuring another 672, as reported by the Interior Ministry on Saturday. Out of the injured, 205 are said to be in critical condition.


The quake wreaked havoc across the country, with the hardest-hit regions being mountain areas that are notoriously difficult to access. Residents of major cities were left in shock, as buildings crumbled around them. Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni which is close to the epicentre, said, "Our neighbours are buried under the rubble, and we're doing our best to rescue them with the means available in our village."


Marrakech, a prominent city nearest to the epicentre, faced severe damage, with numerous buildings, including a UNESCO World Heritage site, succumbing to the quake. The aftermath also saw Marrakesh battling disruptions in internet connectivity due to power outages, as highlighted by global internet monitor, NetBlocks.


The US Geological Survey (USGS) highlighted the vulnerability of structures in the region to earthquakes. They revealed that the earthquake originated at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km, around 72 km southwest of Marrakesh, and 56 km west of the Atlas Mountain town of Oukaimeden.


Morocco's geographical location between the African and Eurasian plates makes it susceptible to earthquakes, especially in its northern regions.


Local residents recounted their harrowing experiences. Abdelhak El Amrani, a Marrakesh resident, expressed, "The tremor was so violent. Buildings were swaying, and there was widespread panic. After the initial shock, people chose to stay outdoors, fearing aftershocks."


Michael Bizet, a French national who owns traditional riad houses in Marrakech, described the quake as "total chaos, a catastrophe."


Social media was abuzz with videos from the region, including footage of a minaret collapsing in Marrakech's renowned Jemaa el-Fna square, injuring two bystanders.


The Interior Ministry confirmed that all possible resources have been mobilized for rescue and relief operations. Hospitals in Marrakesh were overwhelmed with the influx of injured patients, prompting the regional blood transfusion centre to make an urgent appeal for blood donations.


The earthquake's tremors were not limited to Morocco; they were felt as far away as Algeria. However, the Algerian Civil Defence confirmed no casualties or damage on their side.


Moroccan media has labelled this as the most powerful earthquake to hit the nation. This comes as a grim reminder of the 2004 quake in Al Hoceima, which resulted in the loss of over 600 lives.


In neighbouring Algeria, the 1980 El Asnam earthquake remains one of the most destructive quakes in recent memory, having claimed 2,500 lives.

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