A STRONG earthquake of magnitude 6.8 has struck central Morocco, killing at least 632 people, the country’s interior ministry says.
The epicentre was in the High Atlas Mountains, 71km (44 miles) south-west of Marrakesh, at a depth of 18.5km, the US Geological Survey said.
The quake struck at 23:11 local time (22:11 GMT) on Friday. There was a 4.9 aftershock 19 minutes later.
People died in Marrakesh and several areas to the south, the ministry said.
Many of the victims are believed to be in remote areas.
The interior ministry said the earthquake killed people in the provinces and municipalities of al-Haouz, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant, adding that at least 329 people have been injured.
Unverified video clips on social media show damaged buildings, other buildings shaking and rubble-strewn streets. People are seen fleeing in alarm and some walking through clouds of dust.
There are also reports of families trapped under the rubble of their homes, and damage to parts of Marrakesh’s Medina, a Unesco World heritage Site. Hospitals in the city have seen an influx of injured people, and the authorities have called on residents to donate blood.
Some buildings in the old city have collapsed, one resident told the Reuters news agency. Several clips on X show buildings crashing down, but the BBC has not identified where they were.
Locals are said to have decided to stay outside their homes in case the city is rocked by powerful aftershocks.
Another man in the historic city described feeling a “violent tremor” and seeing “buildings moving”.
“People were all in shock and panic. The children were crying and the parents were distraught,” Abdelhak El Amrani told the AFP agency.
He said power and phone lines were down for 10 minutes.
The quake’s epicentre in a remote area of the High Atlas Mountains was relatively shallow – and tremors were also reportedly felt in the capital Rabat, some 350km away, as well as Casablanca and Essaouira.
Simple buildings in mountain villages near the epicentre may not have survived and, being remote, it may take some time to determine casualties there.
The quake was also felt in neighbouring Algeria, but officials said it had not caused any damage or casualties.
Speaking at the G20 summit in Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the international community would come to Morocco’s aid.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez offered “solidarity and support to the people of Morocco”. French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “devastated” by the news and offered assistance to Morocco.