Death toll rises in Marrakech, Morocco, after 6.8-magnitude quake

A resident navigates through the rubble in Marrakech, Morocco, on Saturday, September 9. 
A resident navigates through the rubble in Marrakech, Morocco, on Saturday, September 9.  Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

If you are just joining us, hundreds of people have been killed after a powerful earthquake struck central Morocco.

The bulk of the deaths were in the province of Al Haouz, west of the quake’s epicenter and south of Marrakech, a bustling economic and cultural center that’s popular with tourists.

Here are the latest developments:

When and where: The quake struck shortly after 11 p.m. local time (6 p.m. ET), according to the US Geological Survey. Its epicenter was in the High Atlas mountains, about 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of the Marrakech, home to around 840,000 people. Many people in the areas affected live in structures “highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking,” the USGS noted.

Rising death toll: While more than 800 people have died, the figure is likely to rise. One expert said he expects multiple aftershocks and predicted the magnitude of these aftershocks to be in the “high fives.”

Damage is complicating rescues: Rescue teams in the country were having difficulties reaching the hardest-hit areas, with nearby roads damaged or blocked. Some Marrakech residents spent the night sleeping in the streets. Traffic has been reported in some streets in the city amid a rush to pick up patients, as well as tourists fleeing the destruction.

Eyewitnesses describe devastation: People living in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, very close to the epicenter of the quake, have described the ruins left behind by the disaster. One eyewitness said her village is in a “very bad condition. There is destruction everywhere.”

Huge international response: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the G20 summit on Saturday with “heartfelt condolences” to everyone affected by the quake. The United Nations has said it is ready to help, and other countries including Israel, the UAE, the US and France have said they are working to provide assistance to Morocco.

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