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Over 1,000 Lives Lost in Morocco’s Devastating Earthquake Tragedy

Authorities reported Saturday that more than 1,000 people were killed in Morocco’s biggest earthquake in decades, which also left extensive damage and panicked locals and visitors running for cover in the middle of the night. It is the strongest-ever quake to hit the North African kingdom, and one expert described it as the region’s “biggest in more than 120 years”.

The 6.8-magnitude earthquake occurred at 11:11 pm (2211 GMT) on Friday in a hilly region 72 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech, a popular tourist destination, according to the US Geological Survey.

The coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca, and Essaouira also experienced strong tremors.

“I was nearly asleep when I heard the doors and the shutters banging,” said Ghannou Najem, a Casablanca resident in her 80s who was visiting Marrakech when the quake hit.

“I went outside in a panic. I thought I was going to die alone.”

“Where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough… so many collapses, resulting in high casualties,” said Bill McGuire, professor emeritus at Britain’s University College London.

Algeria, which severed ties with Morocco last year, announced on Saturday that it will open its airspace to humanitarian and medical aircraft to and from earthquake-ravaged Morocco. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Algeria has previously expressed “its sincere condolences to the brotherly Moroccan people for the victims of the earthquake”.

The interior ministry reported that 721 of the total injured are in critical condition. Additionally, it stated that more than half of the fatalities reported so far occurred in the provinces of Taroudant and Al-Haouz, which served as the epicenter.

According to a statement from the military, King Mohammed VI of Morocco gave the order to mobilize air and ground assets, professional search and rescue teams, and a surgical field hospital in the wake of the disaster. While the globe has expressed condolences and support for Morocco, the country’s leadership has not yet made an official request for help, which is a need before outside rescue teams may arrive.

Pope Francis also spoke to world leaders to express his support and solidarity for Moroccans. Pope Francis addressed a message to Morocco that stated, “The pope expresses his profound solidarity with those who are touched in the flesh and heart by this tragedy.” Pietro Parolin is the secretary of state for the Vatican.

According to local media, rescue operations are being hampered by clogged highways going to the hilly region surrounding the epicenter, with vehicles and rocks blocking the way. Nasser Jabour, head of Morocco’s state Institute of Geophysics, reported on state broadcaster SNRT that weak aftershocks were felt at the earthquake’s epicenter in the Al Haouz region. He also reportedly asked people to maintain their composure.

Marrakech, a major tourist destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site, sustained damage as of Saturday morning, although its entire effect was yet unclear.

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