Scores of people have died in a powerful earthquake in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains. The country’s state television has put the death toll at over a thousand lives lost.
The 6,8 quake in the North African country also destroyed buildings and sent people fleeing from their homes in several cities.
Officials say most of the dead are in hard to reach mountain areas.
The United Nations says it stands ready to help the Moroccan government.
Rescuers dig for survivors
Rescuers dug through rubble for survivors in collapsed houses in remote mountain villages of Morocco on Saturday, in the wake of the country’s deadliest earthquake for more than six decades.
The quake that struck in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains late on Friday night damaged historic buildings in Marrakech – the nearest city to the epicentre – while most of the fatalities were reported in mountainous areas to the south.
In the village of Amizmiz near the epicentre, rescue workers picked through rubble with their bare hands. Fallen masonry blocked narrow streets. Outside a hospital, around 10 bodies lay covered in blankets as grieving relatives stood nearby.
“When I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet and the house leaning, I rushed to get my kids out. But my neighbours couldn’t,” said Mohamed Azaw. “Unfortunately no one was found alive in that family. The father and son were found dead and they are still looking for the mother and the daughter.”
Rescuers stood atop the pancaked floors of one building in Amizmiz, bits of carpet and furniture protruding from the rubble. A long queue formed outside the only open shop as people sought supplies. Underlining the challenges facing rescuers, fallen boulders blocked a road from Amizmiz to a nearby village.
Nearly all the houses in the area of Asni, some 40 km south of Marrakech, were damaged, and villagers were preparing to spend the night outside. Food was in short supply as roofs had collapsed on kitchens, said villager Mohamed Ouhammo.
Eiffel Tower lights to go dark
The Eiffel Tower’s lights will go dark at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Saturday in tribute to victims of Morocco’s earthquake, Agence France Presse reported, citing Paris City Hall.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry said earlier that 1 037 people had been killed and another 672 injured by the quake, recorded by the US Geological Survey at a magnitude of 6.8 with an epicentre some 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech. -Additional reporting by Reuters