An earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.8 struck Morocco on Friday, devastating an area where many vulnerable buildings were unable to withstand the tremors. Official estimates of the death toll rose to the thousands on Sunday.
Rubble filled alleys in Marrakesh, one of Morocco’s largest cities, but the highest death tolls so far were reported in small communities in the High Atlas Mountains, where the few roads appeared blocked by rubble and phone service was cut off.
The epicenter of the quake was about 35 miles west of Oukaimeden, a popular ski resort in the mountain range.
Reports on social media said that some villages had not yet received any assistance more than a day after the earthquake. The area has many adobe houses and little earthquake-resistant infrastructure.
As of Sunday, the highest number of casualties so far were in Al Haouz province, a mountainous region made up of small hill towns south of Marrakesh, and Taroudant, south of the epicenter. Many of the areas affected by the earthquake are remote mountain villages that cannot be easily reached by emergency teams.
The earthquake was the strongest to hit the region in more than a century. The US Geological Survey described serious earthquakes in Morocco as “uncommon but not unexpected.”
The deadliest earthquake in Morocco’s modern history struck near Agadir in 1960, killing at least 12,000 people. The coastal city is located 80 miles southwest of the epicenter of Friday’s earthquake.