By Spy Uganda Correspondent
At least, 1037 people died in a powerful earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday night, causing widespread damage and panic in Marrakech, a tourist Mecca, and several other cities, according to a new official report.
The Moroccan Centre for Scientific and Technical Research (CNRST) said the epicentre of the quake, recorded at 23:11 local time (22:11 GMT), was located in the province of Al-Haouz, south-west of the city of Marrakech, a popular destination for foreign tourists.
The earthquake killed 820 people and injured 672, 205 of them seriously, the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement. The previous toll was 632 dead and 329 injured.
More than a third of the deaths (394) were recorded in Al-Haouz, the epicentre of the quake, and in Taroudant (271) further south, the same source said.
This is the most powerful earthquake to hit the kingdom to date.
According to images reproduced by the media and on social networks and witnesses, the earthquake caused extensive damage in several towns.
Images showed part of a minaret collapsing on the famous Jemaa el-Fna square, the beating heart of Marrakech, injuring two people.
News reporters saw hundreds of people flocking to the city’s iconic square to spend the night for fear of aftershocks. Some had blankets, others were sleeping on the ground.
“We were walking around Jemaa el-Fna when the earth started to shake. We’re safe and sound, but I’m still in shock. At least ten members of my family died in Ijoukak (rural commune of Al-Haouz, editor’s note). I can’t believe it, because no more than two days ago I was with them”, Houda Outassaf, a resident of the town said.
In addition to Marrakech, the tremor was felt in Rabat, Casablanca, Agadir and Essaouira, causing panic among the population. Many people took to the streets of these cities, fearing that their homes would collapse, according to images posted on social networks.
In photos and videos posted by Internet users, large sections of debris can be seen in the streets of Marrakech’s Medina. But also cars crushed by stones.
“I was in bed when everything started shaking (…) I went out into the street half-naked and went straight to my riads. It was total chaos, a real catastrophe, madness”, Frenchman Michaël Bizet, 43, owner of traditional houses in the old town of Marrakech said.