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At least 2,012 people in Morocco died after a rare, catastrophic earthquake struck the North African country late Friday night.
The magnitude 6.8 earthquake also injured at least 2,059 people, according to Morocco’s Interior Ministry. 1,404 of those injuries were considered critical.
The death toll is expected to rise as first responders struggle to reach remote villages in the country. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI instructed his military to conduct search and rescue missions and operate surgical field hospitals to assist remote villagers.
The earthquake’s epicenter was near Ighil, a town in the Al Haouz Province. The town is located around 44 miles south of the capital city of Marrakesh.
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A man walks past destroyed houses after an earthquake in the mountain village of Tafeghaghte, southwest of the city of Marrakesh, on September 9, 2023. (FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)
The earthquake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria. Despite the severe destruction, Morocco has not yet formally asked other countries for assistance.
Earthquakes are considered rare in North Africa: the Moroccan cities of Al Hoceima and Agadir were hit by earthquakes in 2004 and 1960, respectively. The earthquake in Al Hoceima had a magnitude of 6.4, while Agadir’s was 5.8.
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People, whose buildings are destroyed after a 7 magnitude earthquake, try to settle in empty areas in Marrakesh, Morocco on September 9, 2023. ( Abu Adem Muhammed/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The quake hit Marrakesh hard, ruining several historical buildings in the city. The city’s Koutoubia Mosque, which dates back to the 12th century, was damaged to an unknown extent.
The ancient red walls that surround the Medina of Marrakesh – a UNESCO World Heritage site – were also damaged by the quake.
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Rescue workers dig through rubble after an earthquake in the mountain village of Tafeghaghte, southwest of the city of Marrakesh, on September 9, 2023. (FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images)
“The problem is that where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough to cope with strong ground shaking, so many collapse, resulting in high casualties,” University College London professor Bill McGuire explained to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.