A powerful earthquake that shook Morocco killed more than 600 people, officials said Saturday, sending terrified residents fleeing
their homes in the middle of the night.
The 6.8-magnitude quake struck a mountainous area 72 kilometres (45 miles) southwest of tourist hotspot Marrakesh at 11:11 pm (2211 GMT) Friday, the US Geological Survey reported.
Strong tremors were also felt in the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira.
Moroccan media reported it was the most powerful quake to ever hit the country.
“We felt a very violent tremor, and I realised it was an earthquake,” Abdelhak El Amrani, 33, told AFP by telephone from Marrakesh.
“I could see buildings moving,” said Amrani who went outside, joining many other people, “all in shock and panic. The children were crying and the parents were distraught.”
“The power went out for 10 minutes, and so did the (telephone) network, but then it came back on,” he added. “Everyone decided to stay outside.”
Updated interior ministry figures on Saturday showed the quake killed 632 people, more than half of them in Al-Haouz and Taroudant provinces. The ministry also recorded deaths in Ouarzazate, Chichaoua, Azilal and Youssoufia provinces, as well as in Marrakesh, Agadir, and the Casablanca area.
Another 329 people were injured, including 51 in critical condition, the ministry said.