People take shelter and check for news on their mobile phones after an earthquake in Rabat, Morocco, late Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy)
Rabat (Morocco): A powerful earthquake that struck Morocco late Friday night killed at least 600 people, the country's Interior Ministry said.
Moroccans posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in historic Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site, damaged.
Tourists and others posted videos of people screaming and evacuating restaurants in the city as throbbing club music played.
The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 pm, with shaking that lasted several seconds. Morocco's National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale. The US agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.
Variations in early measurements are common, although either reading would be Morocco's strongest in years. Though earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near Agadir and caused thousands of deaths in 1960.
The epicentre of Friday's tremor was high in the Atlas Mountains roughly 70 kilometers south of Marrakech. It was also near Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa and Oukaimeden, a popular Moroccan ski resort.
The USGS said the epicentre was 18 kilometers below the Earth's surface, while Morocco's seismic agency put it at 8 kilometers down.
The quake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria's Civil Defense agency, which oversees emergency response.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he is pained by the loss of lives in Morocco earthquake. "Extremely pained by the loss of lives due to an earthquake in Morocco. In this tragic hour, my thoughts are with the people of Morocco. Condolences to those who have lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. India is ready to offer all possible assistance to Morocco in this difficult time," he said in a post shared on X.com.