*Above video is a recent story about an ODOT camera capturing a minor earthquake in NE Ohio*
MARRAKECH, Morocco (AP) — A rare, powerful earthquake struck Morocco, sending people racing from their beds into the darkened streets and toppling buildings in mountainous villages and ancient cities not built to withstand such force. More than 1,000 people were killed, and the toll was expected to rise as rescuers struggled Saturday to get through boulder-strewn roads to the remote areas hit hardest.
The magnitude-6.8 quake, the biggest to hit the North African country in 120 years, sent people fleeing their homes in terror and disbelief late Friday. One man said dishes people were knocked off their feet. The enormity of the destruction came into view in the daylight.
The quake brought down walls made from stone and masonry not designed to withstand quakes, covering whole communities with rubble and leaving residents picking their way precariously through remains. Rescuers worked through the night to find survivors buried in the dusty ruins.
Fathers sobbed into phones telling loved ones about losing their children. Bodies covered with blankets lay in the health center next to a mosque as doctors pulled shards from people’s feet and treated surface wounds.
“There’s nothing to do but pray,” said Hamza Lamghani, who lost five of his closest friends.
People could be seen on state TV clustering in the streets of historic Marrakech, afraid to go back inside buildings that might still be unstable. Many wrapped themselves in blankets as they tried to sleep outside.
Marrakech’s famous Koutoubia Mosque, built in the 12th century, was damaged, but the extent was not immediately clear. Its 69-meter (226-foot) minaret is known as the “roof of Marrakech.” Moroccans also posted videos showing damage to parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
At least 1,037 people died, mostly in Marrakech and five provinces near the quake’s epicenter, and another 1,204 people were injured, Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported Saturday morning. Of the injured, the ministry wrote, 721 were in critical condition.
“The problem is that where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough to cope with strong ground shaking, so many collapses, resulting in high casualties,” said Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. “I would expect the final death toll to climb into the thousands once more is known. As with any big quake, aftershocks are likely, which will lead to further casualties and hinder search and rescue.”
In a sign of the huge scale of the disaster, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI ordered the armed forces to mobilize air and land assets, specialized search and rescue teams and a surgical field hospital, according to a statement from the military. But despite an outpouring of offers of help from around the world, the Moroccan government had not formally asked for assistance, a step required before outside rescue crews could deploy.
Ayoub Toudite said he had been working out with friends at a gym in Moulay Brahim, which is carved into a mountainside south of Marrakech, when “we felt a huge shake like it was doomsday.” In 10 seconds, he said, everything was gone.
The epicenter of Friday’s tremor was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, roughly 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech. Al Haouz is known for scenic villages and valleys tucked in the High Atlas, and villages built into mountainsides.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m. (2211 GMT), with shaking that lasted several seconds. The U.S. agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later. The collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates occurred at a relatively shallow depth, which makes a quake more dangerous.
Earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa. Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department at the National Institute of Geophysics, told 2M TV that the earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in the region.