The earthquake occurred in Morocco’s High Atlas mountain range shortly after 11 p.m. local time, at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.4 miles).
The epicenter was situated approximately 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of Marrakech, a city with a population of around 840,000 and a popular tourist destination.
Tragically, at least 632 people lost their lives in the earthquake, and 329 others were injured, with 51 in critical condition, as reported by Morocco’s state-run TV Al Aoula, citing the country’s Interior Ministry.
Many residents spent the night outdoors in various cities due to the fear of aftershocks, while rescue efforts were launched to locate individuals trapped in the debris. Health authorities also appealed for blood donations to assist the victims.
The majority of casualties occurred in remote mountain areas near the epicenter, making it challenging for rescue teams to access these hard-to-reach locations due to damaged roads. The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces advised residents to remain vigilant regarding potential aftershocks.
According to USGS, earthquakes of this magnitude in the region are unusual but not entirely unexpected.
The region had not experienced an earthquake of magnitude 6 or larger within 500 kilometers of the recent event since 1900, with only nine earthquakes of magnitude 5 or larger in that time frame.
Reports from Al-Aoula television showed multiple buildings collapsed near the epicenter, and thousands of people evacuated their homes after the National Institute of Geophysics in Morocco warned of possible aftershocks.
This tragic event has had a profound impact on the region, and rescue and relief efforts are ongoing to aid those affected by the earthquake.