September 9, 2023 Earthquake hits Morocco

By Chris Lau, Seán Federico O'Murchú, Andrew Raine, Adrienne Vogt and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 0408 GMT (1208 HKT) September 10, 2023
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9:37 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Eyewitnesses describe destruction in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains following earthquake 

From CNN’s Celine Alkhaldi and Teele Rebane

Motorists drive along a road on the way to earthquake-affected villages in the Atlas Mountains, near Marrakech, Morocco, on September 9.
Motorists drive along a road on the way to earthquake-affected villages in the Atlas Mountains, near Marrakech, Morocco, on September 9. Mosa'ab Elshamy/AP

Fatima, 50, told CNN her house in the town of Asni in the foothills of the High Atlas mountains was destroyed in the earthquake. 

“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,” she said. 

She added that help is yet to arrive in the remote town. “There is no one here to help pull the dead from under the destruction…the village is in very bad condition. There is destruction everywhere.”

Mohammed, 50, from the nearby town of Ouirgane, lost four family members in the quake. “I managed to get out safely with my two children but lost the rest. My house is gone.” he said.

Rescue operations are currently ongoing “We are out in the streets with authorities as they try to pull the dead from the rubble. Many, many people were transported to hospital in front of me. We are hoping for miracles from the rubble" he said. 

Mustapha Louaanabi, who also lives in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains described the moment the earthquake struck saying there were “loud, deafening noises” and it felt as if “a train was passing right in the middle of the living room”. 

His family fled outside, where they stayed for the rest of the night as aftershocks continued until 8am. “Nobody slept all night because of the aftershocks and the noise of these shocks created panic,” he said. 

Louaanabi’s house survived the quake, but a town nearby has been razed to the ground and locals are unable to retrieve bodies from under the rubble he said. Many of the villages in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains close to the epicenter of the quake are isolated and difficult to access. 

9:22 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

This was the strongest quake to hit central Morocco in more than a century, USGS says

From CNN's Amarachi Orie

The earthquake that struck in Morocco's High Atlas mountains Friday night was the strongest to hit within 500 kilometers (about 310 miles) of the area in more than 120 years, according to the US Geological Survey.

With a magnitude of 6.8, it is categorized as "strong" on the magnitude scale.

Earthquakes of this size in the region are uncommon, according to the USGS, but not unexpected. It noted that there have been nine quakes with a magnitude of 5 or higher since 1900 — however, none of them have had a magnitude higher than 6.

On the scale, each increase of one whole number results in 32 times more strength.

Jonathan Stewart, a professor of civil and environmental engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles, told CNN that while the quake was 30 times weaker than the 7.8 magnitude quake that hit Turkey earlier this year, it still released “a tremendous amount of energy” and was likely to do substantial damage.

9:09 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

As the death toll surpasses 800, here's a breakdown of where the deaths have occurred

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem

Rescue workers search for survivors in a collapsed house in Al Haouz province, Morocco, on September 9.
Rescue workers search for survivors in a collapsed house in Al Haouz province, Morocco, on September 9. Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

The 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday night has killed at least 820 people, and injured 672 others.

The hardest-hit regions, including the province of Al Haouz and the southwestern city of Taroudant, are those nearest to the quake's epicenter, which was in the High Atlas mountains, about 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of the major city of Marrakech.

Here's a breakdown of where the deaths have occurred, according to the country's interior ministry:

  • 394 in Al Haouz
  • 271 in Taroudant
  • 91 in Chichaoua
  • 31 in Ouarzazate
  • 13 in Marrakech
  • 11 in Azilal
  • 5 in Agadir
  • 3 in Casablanca province   
  • 1 in Youssoufia province
5:53 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

JUST IN: Death toll rises to 820

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem

The death toll for the Morocco earthquake has risen to 820, with 672 people injured, Morocco’s state television Al Aoula said, citing the Interior Ministry. 

There are 205 people in critical condition, Al Aoula added.

7:12 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Putin and Zelensky send condolences to Morocco

From CNN’s Uliana Pavlova

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have issued separate statements on Saturday sending condolences to Morocco amid the deadly earthquake. 

“Our deepest condolences to HM King Mohammed VI and all Moroccans for the lives lost in the horrible earthquake in the Marrakech region," Zelensky said in a Twitter post. "I wish those injured a fast recovery. Ukraine stands in solidarity with Morocco during this tragic time.”

Putin expressed a similar sentiment in a statement published on the Kremlin’s website: “Your Majesty, please accept my sincere condolences in connection with the tragic consequences of the devastating earthquake in the central regions of your country. Russia shares the experiences and grief of the friendly people of Morocco.”

7:05 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Earthquake is Morocco's deadliest in years

From CNN's Sophie Tanno

Workers dig through rubble in Marrakech, Morocco, on September 9.
Workers dig through rubble in Marrakech, Morocco, on September 9. Abdelhak Balhaki/Reuters

The deadly 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday night is the worst the country has seen for years.

At least 632 people were killed, and 329 others were wounded – including 51 in critical condition, state-run TV Al Aoula reported, citing Morocco’s Interior Ministry.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), it was the strongest tremor to hit that part of the North African nation in more than a century.

Not since 2004 has the country seen a comparative disaster, when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the port city of Al Hoceima.

That earthquake left around 630 people dead and caused widespread damage.

Morocco's worst earthquake of modern times was in 1960 near the western city of Agadir which killed at least 12,000 people.

5:02 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

In photos: Powerful earthquake in Morocco kills hundreds

From CNN's Xueying Chang

Moroccans are waking up to the aftermath of the most powerful earthquake to hit the North African nation in more than a century.

Here are some of the latest images from the scene.

A woman reacts standing in front of her earthquake-damaged house.
A woman reacts standing in front of her earthquake-damaged house. Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looks at the rubble of a building.
A woman looks at the rubble of a building. Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of damage in the historic city of Marrakech, Morocco.
A general view of damage in the historic city of Marrakech, Morocco. Abdelhak Balhaki/Reuters

A resident looks at a damaged building.
A resident looks at a damaged building. Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

Residents take shelter outside at a square.
Residents take shelter outside at a square. Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

7:12 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

France in talks with Morocco over sending help following earthquake, French ambassador says

From CNN’s Xiaofei Xu in Paris 

France is in talks with Moroccan authorities to figure out “ways to accompany Morocco in this grave crisis,” the French ambassador to Morocco told CNN affiliate BFMTV Saturday. 

“Tens of thousands of French people go to Marrakech every week for vacation, around the same number of people go to the nearby Agadir region,” French ambassador Christophe Lecourtier said. 

French leaders have also expressed the country’s readiness to help.  

“We are all devastated by the terrible earthquake in Morocco. France is ready to help with the rescue efforts,” French President Emmanuell Macron said Saturday on X, previously known as Twitter. 

French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne also vowed that Morocco “can count on the support from France in this hardship.” 

Local leaders, including from the Greater Paris region and Marseille, have also pledged support to Morocco. 

More than 830,000 Moroccans live in France while more than 30,000 French live in Morocco, according to data from French authorities.  

4:50 a.m. ET, September 9, 2023

Injured people seen standing outside hospital building in Marrakech, with hospital beds moved outside

From CNN’s Ben Brown in Marrakech and Celine Alkhaldi

People gather outside Sidi Hsain Hospital, following a powerful quake, in Ouarzazate, Morocco.
People gather outside Sidi Hsain Hospital, following a powerful quake, in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Radio Sawt Ouarzazate/Reuters

Many injured people were seen standing outside a hospital building in Marrakech, some with what appeared to be serious injuries, a CNN journalist in the city said. 

Hospital beds were moved outside the building with a large security presence in the vicinity, including military and police.

Traffic is reported in some streets in Marrakech where buses, jeep cars and ambulances are rushing to pick up patients and tourists fleeing the destruction following the powerful earthquake that struck Saturday morning.

Several ambulances can also be seen been driving between Marrakech’s Medina, the ancient part of the city, to the CHU Mohammed VI hospital, where a number of people stood in the street, shaken and crying.

Some context: The epicenter of the 6.8-magnitude quake was in the High Atlas mountains located about 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of Marrakech, a city of some 840,000 people and a popular tourist destination.

The earthquake has killed at least 632 people, with 13 being in Marrakech and 290 in the neighbouring province of Al Haouz, according to the Interior Ministry. At least 329 people have been injured.