At least 820 people have died and another 672 injured following an earthquake that hit Morocco on Friday night.
Morocco’s state television reported the death toll on Saturday, citing the Ministry of Interior. Of those injured, 205 were in a critical condition.
Six provinces including Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakesh, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant were hit by the quake, the Interior Ministry said in a televised statement while calling for calm.
Residents have fled into the streets for fear of their lives. The earthquake destroyed buildings, cars amongst others.
“The Royal Armed Forces, local authorities, security services and civil protection … continue to mobilise and harness all means and capabilities in order to intervene, provide the necessary assistance, and assess the damage,” Aljazeera quoted the interior ministry as saying.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the 6.8 magnitude earthquake near Oukaïmedene, Morocco, occurred due to oblique-reverse faulting at shallow depth within the Moroccan High Atlas Mountain range, roughly 75 km southeast of Marrakech.
Earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa. Lahcen Mhanni, head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department at the National Institute of Geophysics, told 2M TV that the earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in the mountain region.
In 1960, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near the Moroccan city of Agadir and caused thousands of deaths.
According to Alarabiya, the Agadir quake prompted changes in construction rules in Morocco, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors.
In 2004, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima left more than 600 dead.
Friday’s earthquake 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.
Although seven Algerian states felt the quake, no casualties were recorded, the Civil Defence Service in Algeria wrote on Facebook.
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