UPDATE RABAT, Morocco — A powerful earthquake struck Morocco Friday evening, damaging buildings in major cities and sending panicked people streaming into the streets and alleys from the capital Rabat to Marrakech, the country’s most visited tourist destination.
It was not immediately known whether there were any injuries or deaths. Government officials had not commented on the extent of the earthquake’s impact as of Saturday morning.
Moroccans have released videos showing some buildings turned into rubble and dust and parts of the famous red walls that surround Marrakech’s historic old town damaged. Tourists and others posted videos of people evacuating city restaurants to the sound of pulsing club music.
Reports of damage and casualties often take time to arrive after many earthquakes, especially those that strike in the middle of the night.
Rather than returning to concrete buildings, men, women and children remained in the streets, worried about aftershocks and other reverberations that could topple their homes.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it struck at 11:11 p.m. (10:11 p.m. GMT), with shaking lasting several seconds. Morocco’s National Seismic Monitoring and Warning Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale. The US agency reported a 4.9 magnitude aftershock 19 minutes later.
Variations in early readings are common, although either reading would be the strongest recorded in Morocco in years. Although earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa, a 5.8 magnitude tremor struck near Agadir and caused thousands of deaths in 1960.
The epicenter of Friday’s quake was in the Atlas Mountains, about 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech. It was also close to Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, and Oukaimeden, a popular Moroccan ski resort.
The USGS said the epicenter was 18 kilometers (11 miles) below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency estimated it at 8 kilometers (5 miles) below the Earth’s surface.
Beyond information on the scale of the earthquake, neither Moroccan authorities nor MAP, Morocco’s official press agency, had published information on victims or damage as of Saturday morning. Government officials typically use the agency to communicate information on important topics.
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