At least 2,681 people have been killed by the deadly 6.8-magnitude earthquake in Morocco and 2,501 have been injured, state broadcaster 2M reported Monday, with the tragic toll continuing to rise.

Rescue teams from Spain, Britain and Qatar joined forces with local agencies in an effort to find and pull out people buried in the rubble when the quake struck in the High Atlas Mountains, 72 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh.

The earthquake is the strongest to hit the center of the country in more than a century with the epicenter not far from the popular tourist and financial center of Marrakesh.

Al-Hawz province suffered the greatest destruction, where nearly 1,500 people have lost their lives. The area, like many other hard-hit locations, is located south of Morocco in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and includes remote villages and settlements that have been difficult for rescuers to reach. Eyewitnesses reported that some towns have been completely destroyed, with almost all houses in Ashni village damaged.

Many of the survivors spent a third night in the countryside after their homes were destroyed or no longer safe.


Footage from the isolated village of Imi N’Tala, taken by Spanish rescuer Antonio Nogales of the rescue group United Firefighters Without Borders, shows men and dogs perched on steep hillsides covered in debris.

“The magnitude of the disaster is (…) absolute. Not a single house has been left standing. We’ll start the search with the dogs and see if we find anyone alive,” Nogales can be heard saying, struggling to find the words to describe what he’s seeing.

In Imgdal, a village about 75 kilometers south of Marrakesh, women and children huddled in the early morning under makeshift tents set up along the road next to their demolished homes. Further south, a car was crushed by rocks that fell from a cliff.

In the village of Tafeghte, Hamid Ben Hena described how his eight-year-old son was killed when he went to get a knife from the kitchen to cut a melon for the family’s dinner. The child was swept out of the house, the rest of the family was saved.

Authorities have not yet announced the number of missing, as many villages are inaccessible. Roads cut off or blocked by rockfalls make it even more difficult to access the areas hardest hit by the earthquake.


On the road to the town of Andasil, a short distance from the epicenter, rescuer Ayman Koait was trying to remove rocks that had fallen on the road. “Up there are worse roads that are still blocked and we’re trying to open those too,” he said, as vans loaded with emergency supplies passed through the narrow, cleared passage.

Many buildings immediately collapsed, such as the numerous, traditional houses made of adobe, stone and rough timber, the picturesque buildings that attracted tourists to the High Atlas like a magnet. “It is difficult to retrieve people alive because the walls and ceilings turned to dirt as they fell, burying whoever was underneath, leaving no air pockets,” said a military official who asked not to be named.

The scars left by the earthquake on Morocco’s cultural heritage are now beginning to show. Buildings in the Old City of Marrakesh, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were damaged. The damage is also significant to the 12th century Tinmel Mosque, in an isolated, mountainous area, near the epicenter.

The earthquake is the deadliest to hit Morocco since 1960, when at least 12,000 people were killed, and the strongest since 1900.

Help for survivors

Survivors desperately seeking shelter and supplies have described the government’s response as slow, but it appears today things are picking up speed. The military said it was bolstering rescue teams, while sending drinking water and distributing food, tents and blankets to the affected areas.

As of Friday, neither King Mohammed nor Prime Minister Aziz Ahanous has addressed the nation.

Morocco accepted the offer of help from Spain and Britain – they sent rescuers with specially trained dogs – the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The European Union has announced that it is releasing 1 million euros in a first phase to be allocated to non-governmental aid agencies in Morocco.

Public television reported that the government will review the needs and coordination of relief efforts for those affected and may accept help from other countries later. Both France and Germany downplayed the fact that Morocco did not immediately accept their offer of aid. Germany said there was no indication that Rabat’s decision was “political”, while France said it was ready to provide assistance whenever Morocco asked for it. In recent years, relations between Paris and Rabat have been difficult, mainly over the issue of Western Sahara, as Morocco wants France to recognize the disputed region as Moroccan territory. Morocco has not had an ambassador in Paris since last January.