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Death Toll Rises as Morocco Reels From Earthquake

Brian Gornick, Sports Editor

Destroyed building that collapsed from an earthquake. Photo//Shutterstock, Fernando Astasio Avila

Authorities in Morocco continue to look for survivors across the country as it reels from a massive earthquake that hit the country on Friday, Sept. 8.

Around 11:11 p.m. local time, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco. Its epicenter was tracked to the Atlas Mountains, only around 45 miles from the nearest big city, Marrakesh, but shock waves were felt as far away as Casablanca – nearly 200 miles away from the earthquake’s epicenter.

Marrakesh is home to many historical sites, including the famous Koutoubia Mosque and Walls of Marrakesh, and is reportedly damaged throughout the city. The World Health Organization claims that close to half of the city's population has been affected by the earthquake, and a majority of rescue services are currently working in the city.

While many of Morocco’s rescue operations are centered around urban areas, the worst damage is reported to be among rural villages and communities in the Atlas Mountains whose homes are not built to withstand earthquakes of this magnitude. Many of the roadways that serve as vital connections between these rural villages and urban centers are now blocked by landslides, with help from authorities being slow to reach them.

In an interview with CNN, 50-year-old Fatima, a survivor from the mountains, said: “I barely got the chance to grab the kids and run out before I saw my house collapsing in front of my eyes. The neighbor’s house has also collapsed and there are two dead people under the rubble.”

As of two days after the earthquake, the death toll has climbed to over 2,000. Deaths are expected to rise as rescue workers reach more of the rural communities in the Atlas Mountains.

This weekend’s earthquake is the deadliest earthquake to hit Morocco in over 50 years. In 1960, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the city of Agadir, Morocco. While the earthquake had a lesser magnitude than this weekend’s earthquake, they both shared a shallow depth, which greatly increased the surface shaking. The Agadir Earthquake killed an estimated 12,000-15,000 people, and injured thousands more.

As more of these villages are reached by Moroccan authorities, it’ll only add to the destruction and death faced by the people of Morocco.

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