RABAT, Morocco — A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Morocco late Friday night, killing hundreds of people and damaging buildings and historic landmarks in major cities.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry said early Saturday that at least 632 people had died in the provinces near the quake. Additionally, 329 injured people were sent to hospitals for treatment. The ministry wrote that most damage occurred outside of cities and towns.
The Moroccan Armed Forces initially said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that 100 were dead in the quake, and said safety was still a priority as strong aftershocks rocked the nation.
The powerful earthquake damaged buildings in major cities and sent panicked people pouring into streets and alleyways from the capital Rabat to Marrakech, the county’s most visited tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Moroccans posted videos showing buildings reduced to rubble and dust, and parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakech damaged. Tourists and others posted videos of people screaming and evacuating restaurants in the city as throbbing club music played.
The U.S. Embassy in Morocco said it’s unaware of any U.S. citizens affected, but said it has told Americans in the country to use caution for 24 hours following the temblor in case strong aftershocks strike the region.
“We are aware of reports that a 6.8 magnitude earthquake has struck Morocco outside of Marrakesh and are deeply saddened by the loss of life,” the embassy said in a statement. “We extend our condolences to those affected by the earthquake.”
The USGS said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m., with shaking that lasted several seconds. Morocco’s National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale. The U.S. agency reported a magnitude-4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.
The survey said the temblor struck at an oblique-reverse fault, which had one plate fall away almost like a landslide.
Variations in early measurements are common, although either reading would be Morocco’s strongest in years. Though earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near Agadir and caused thousands of deaths in 1960.
“Earthquakes are not common in the area, but [this was] not unexpected,” said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Anna Andreyev, who said the quake is the largest since 1900.