Morocco mourns quake victims as death toll climbs to over 2,000
Morocco on Saturday declared three days of national mourning after a devastating earthquake jolted the kingdom late Friday night.
Flags will fly at half-mast on all public facilities during the national mourning, according to a statement released by the Royal Office after Moroccan King Mohammed VI chaired a meeting on the disaster.
A 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Morocco Friday at 11:11pm local time (10:11pm GMT) at a depth of 18.5 km, said the United States Geological Survey. The epicenter of the earthquake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, some 70 km southwest of Marrakesh.
The quake has claimed the lives of 2,012 people and injured 2,059, with 1,404 of them in serious condition, according to the latest update from the country's Interior Ministry on Saturday.
Morocco has not experienced a disaster of this magnitude since 2004 when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the port city of Al Hoceima, killing around 630 people.
The Moroccan state TV said the majority of casualties in the earthquake were from the remote and inaccessible mountainous regions near the epicenter, with damaged roads further hindering rescue efforts.
Rescuers have been sent to the quake-hit areas to search for survivors, local media reported. TV footage showed rescuers digging through rubbles and debris in an effort to save survivors.
The earthquake was felt in many cities across Morocco, including the capital Rabat and Casablanca. Numerous houses collapsed in the cities of Taroudant and Marrakesh, local media reported.
Rows of buildings were leveled to the ground in Imlil, a small village in the High Atlas mountains about 60 km south of Marrakesh, video footage showed.
The earthquake damaged many buildings in the old city of Marrakesh, the nearest big city to the epicenter, and many residents had to spend the night in the open space for fear of potential aftershocks, said Zhang Kai, an overseas Chinese living in Marrakesh.
Xinhua correspondents at Ouarzazate, about 190 km southeast of Marrakesh, saw residents taking shelter in an open space after the earthquake.
"There have been earthquakes before, but none of them were as strong as this one," said a resident who requires anonymity.
On the way from Ouarzazate to the epicenter, rocks and rubbles from the mountains and buildings were seen scattered along the road.
Countries offer solidarity, aid
The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) announced on Saturday that it would provide the Moroccan Red Crescent with US$200,000 in cash as emergency humanitarian assistance to assist in its rescue operations.
The RCSC said it would keep abreast of the relief needs in Morocco and pledged to offer assistance to the best of its ability.
Arab countries and organizations, including the Arab League (AL), Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon and Libya, on Saturday sent condolences to Morocco over the devastating earthquake. They have expressed solidarity with Morocco and pledged support for its rescue and relief efforts.
Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, secretary-general of the Cairo-based AL, said he hoped Morocco would quickly overcome the crisis.
Other countries that have offered condolences or assistance include Iran, Turkey, Israel, France, Germany, the US, etc.