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Morocco earthquake: Death toll rises to 632

Morocco earthquake: Death toll rises to 632

Rabat (Morocco): The death toll from the powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck central Morocco late Friday, has increased to 632, with 329 injured persons, state TV reported on Saturday.

Morocco's Interior Ministry said in a statement that the fatalities were reported from the provinces and municipalities of Al-Haouz, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant.

The earthquake damaged buildings in major cities, sending panicked people pouring into streets and alleyways from the capital Rabat to Marrakech, the county's most visited tourist destination.

The epicentre, with a depth of 18.5 km, was initially determined to be at 31.11 degrees north latitude and 8.44 degrees west longitude, some 70 km southwest of Marrakesh, Xinhua news agency reported.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 pm, with shaking that lasted several seconds.

Morocco's National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale. The US agency reported a magnitude-4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.

Variations in early measurements are common, although either reading would be Morocco's strongest in years.

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Though earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near Agadir and caused thousands of deaths in 1960.

Several houses collapsed in the cities of Taroudant and Marrakesh, local media reported.

After the earthquake, residents of Fes, a city in northern Morocco, left their homes and gathered in the streets out of concern for potential aftershocks, a Xinhua correspondent at the city said.

Moroccans posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in historic Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site, damaged.

The epicentre of Friday's tremor was high in the Atlas Mountains roughly 70 kilometres south of Marrakech. It was also near Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa and Oukaimeden, a popular Moroccan ski resort.

Tourists and others posted videos of people screaming and evacuating restaurants in the city as throbbing club music played.

Reports on damage and any casualties often take time to filter in after many earthquakes, particularly those that hit in the middle of the night.

Rather than return to concrete buildings, men, women and children stayed out in the streets worried about aftershocks and other reverberations that could cause their homes to sway.

The quake 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.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday condoled the loss of lives in the earthquake and also offered assistance to the North African country.

"Extremely pained by the loss of lives due to an earthquake in Morocco. In this tragic hour, my thoughts are with the people of Morocco. Condolences to those who have lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. India is ready to offer all possible assistance to Morocco in this difficult time," Modi posted on X.

The 1980, 7.3-magnitude El Asnam earthquake in neighbouring Algeria was one of the largest and most destructive earthquakes in recent history. It killed 2,500 people and left at least 300,000 homeless, as reported by AFP.

With inputs from agencies

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