A powerful earthquake in Morocco has killed more than 1,000 people and injured hundreds more, the country’s deadliest in more than six decades, toppling houses in remote mountain villages where rescuers dug through rubble for survivors.
The quake struck in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains late on Friday night, damaging historic buildings in Marrakech, the nearest city to the epicentre, while the most badly affected areas were in the mountains nearby.
The Interior Ministry said 1,037 people had been killed and another 672 injured by the quake, gauged by the U.S. Geological Survey at a magnitude of 6.8 with an epicentre some 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech.
In the village of Amizmiz near the epicentre rescue workers picked through rubble with their bare hands.
“When I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet and the house leaning, I rushed to get my kids out. But my neighbours couldn’t,” said Mohamed Azaw. “Unfortunately no one was found alive in that family. The father and son were found dead and they are still looking for the mother and the daughter.”
About 20 men including firefighters and soldiers in fatigues stood atop the ruin of a house in Amizmiz as they tried to remove rubble, bits of carpet and furniture protruding from gaps between pancaked concrete floors.
The quake, which hit at around 11 p.m. (2200 GMT), affected a sweep of the High Atlas mountain range. Tremors were felt as far away as Huelva and Jaen in Andalusia in southern Spain, Spanish television RTVE reported.
Street camera footage in Marrakech showed the moment the earth began to shake, as men suddenly looked around and jumped up, and others ran for shelter into an alleyway and then fled as dust and debris tumbled around them.
In Marrakech, where 13 people were confirmed dead, residents spent the night in the open, afraid to go home.
In the heart of its old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a mosque minaret had fallen in Jemaa al-Fna Square.
Injured people filtered into Marrakech from the surrounding areas seeking treatment.
State television footage from the Moulay Ibrahim area some 40 km (25 miles) south of Marrakech showed dozens of houses collapsed at the foothills of a mountain, and residents digging graves as groups of women stood in the street.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the village of Asni near the epicentre, said most houses there were damaged.
“Our neighbours are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village,” he said.
Further west, near Taroudant, teacher Hamid Afkar said he had fled his home and felt aftershocks.
“The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor,” he said.