Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in decades has killed over 1,000 people, authorities said Saturday, causing widespread damage and sending terrified residents and tourists scrambling to safety in the middle of the night.
The 6.8-magnitude quake struck a mountainous area 72 kilometres (45 miles) southwest of tourist hotspot Marrakesh at 11:11 pm (2211 GMT) Friday, the US Geological Survey reported.
Strong tremors were also felt in the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira.
“I was nearly asleep when I heard the doors and the shutters banging,” said Ghannou Najem, a Casablanca resident in her 80s who was visiting Marrakesh when the quake hit.
“I went outside in a panic. I thought I was going to die alone.”
It is the strongest-ever quake to hit the North African kingdom, and one expert described it as the region’s “biggest in more than 120 years”.
“Where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough… so many collapse, resulting in high casualties,” said Bill McGuire, professor emeritus at Britain’s University College London.
Updated interior ministry figures on Saturday showed the quake killed at least 1,037 people, the vast majority in Al-Haouz, the epicentre, and Taroudant provinces.
Another 1,204 people were injured, including 721 in a critical condition, the ministry said.
The ministry also recorded deaths in Ouarzazate, Chichaoua, Azilal and Youssoufia provinces, as well as in Marrakesh, Agadir and the Casablanca area.
Faisal Badour, an engineer, said he felt the quake three times in his building in Marrakesh.
“There are families who are still sleeping outside because we were so scared of the force of this earthquake,” he said. “The screaming and crying was unbearable.”
In Moulay Brahim village, in the mountains of Al-Haouz province near the quake’s epicentre, rescuers were searching for survivors in the rubble of collapsed houses, AFP correspondents reported.
On a nearby hill, residents began digging graves for the victims, the correspondents said.
Frenchman Michael Bizet, 43, who owns three traditional riad houses in Marrakesh’s old town, told AFP that he was in bed when the quake struck.
“I thought my bed was going to fly away. I went out into the street half-naked and immediately went to see my riads. It was total chaos, a real catastrophe, madness,” he said.
Footage on social media showed part of a minaret collapsed on Jemaa el-Fna square in the historic city.
An AFP correspondent saw hundreds of people flocking to the square to spend the night for fear of aftershocks, some with blankets while others slept on the ground.
Mimi Theobold, 25, a tourist from England, said she was with friends on a restaurant terrace when the tables began shaking and plates went flying.
Houda Outassaf, a local resident, said she was “still in shock” after feeling the earth shake beneath her feet — and losing relatives.
“I have at least 10 members of my family who died… I can hardly believe it, as I was with them no more than two days ago,” she said.
The interior ministry said authorities have “mobilised all the necessary resources to intervene and help the affected areas”.
The regional blood transfusion centre in Marrakesh called on residents to donate blood for those injured.
The army has set up a field hospital in Moulay Brahim and deployed “significant human and logistical resources” to support search and rescue efforts in Al-Haouz, state news agency MAP said.
Significant damage likely
“We heard screams at the time of the tremor,” a resident of Essaouira, 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of Marrakesh, told AFP. “Pieces of facades have fallen.”
The USGS PAGER system, which provides preliminary assessments on the impact of earthquakes, issued a “red alert” for economic losses, saying extensive damage is probable.
Foreign leaders expressed their condolences and many offered assistance, including Israel with which Morocco normalised relations in 2020.
US President Joe Biden said in a statement he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation”.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressed “deep grief for the victims” and hope that “the Moroccan government and people will be able to overcome the impact of this disaster”, according to Beijing’s state media.
Pope Francis expressed “his profound solidarity with those who are touched in the flesh and heart by this tragedy”.
The earthquake was also felt in neighbouring Algeria, where the Algerian Civil Defence said it had not caused any damage or casualties.
In 2004, at least 628 people were killed and 926 injured when a quake hit Al Hoceima in northeastern Morocco, and in 1960 a magnitude 6.7 quake in Agadir killed more than 12,000.
The 7.3-magnitude El Asnam earthquake in Algeria killed 2,500 people and left at least 300,000 homeless in 1980.
NDLEA arrests wanted drug kingpin, Chadian, others over 4 tons of drugs
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has arrested a kingpin wanted for attempts to ship illicit drug consignments to the United Kingdom.
This tops the list of arrests made by NDLEA Operatives through interdiction operations that led to the seizure of four tons of illicit substances in the past week.
A statement by the NDLEA spokesman, Mr Femi Babafemi on Sunday in Abuja said that the suspect, Obiorah Chigozie had been on the wanted list of the agency since Sept. 15.
This, he said, was when a consignment of 1.500kg skunk concealed in flour going to London, UK was intercepted at the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) export shed of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, (MMIA) Ikeja Lagos.
Babafemi said that his freight agent, Nworah Adaugo Precious was arrested.
“Convinced that the 1.500kg consignment had sailed through, Chigozie walked into the agency’s dragnet on Sept. 28 when he personally brought another tranche of 2.00kg concealed in cartons to the airport for shipment to the UK.
“In his interview, Chigozie claimed he was into shoes sales in Lagos before venturing into the illicit drug business, ” he said.
Meanwhile, operatives of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT command of the agency on Sept. 29, intercepted a container truck with registration number BD G41 XM coming from Lagos to Kano at the Gwagwalada area of the FCT.
Also, Babafemi said that no less than 1,188 kilograms of skunk loaded at Owo, Ondo state, and hidden under cartons of tooth paste were recovered from the truck and its driver, Amafan Fattison, 28, arrested.
Similarly, NDLEA officers in Bayelsa on Sept. 27, seized 432kgs of the same substance from an abandoned J5 bus along Saipem road, Opolo, Yenagoa.
Babafemi said the vehicle was equally recovered from the scene for further investigation.
In Kano, a septuagenarian grandpa, Ado Unguwa, 70, was arrested on Saturday Sept. 30 with 143.2kgs skunk in Dindere village, Tofa LGA.
Babafemi said that operatives in Enugu same day recovered 110.6kgs of same substance from a locked-up shop at Aria new market.
He added that operatives in Lagos also on Saturday Sept. 30, stormed the notorious Idi-Oro drug enclave in Mushin where they seized 212.5kgs of cannabis sativa belonging to a wanted drug lord.
This was even as NDLEA officers in Kwara recovered 104kgs of skunk from a Toyota camry car in Offa area of the state.
Babafemi siad that a Chadian, Mohammed Ibrahim, 25, was also nabbed at Mafa check point, Borno with 11.8kgs of same substance on Monday Sept. 25.
“In Plateau, the police command in the spirit of inter-agency collaboration transferred four suspects: Yusuf Akim; Frank Gah; Jackson Ejeh and Joseph Utsu
“1,978kgs cannabis was recovered from them to the state command of NDLEA, while in Cross River, operatives on Monday Sept. 25 seized 40,000 ampules of pentazocine injection.
” Two suspects,Fajulugbe Adeshola, 35, and Nnaorji Agwe, 54, at Mobil by MCC road, Calabar were arrested.
“Also in Kogi , NDLEA officers on Wednesday Sept. 27 arrested a suspect, Ifeanyi Odoh, 25, with 59,867 pills of opioids including Tramadol and 4.03kgs cannabis sativa at Idah area of the state, ” he said.
Babafemi quoted the NDLEA Chairman, retired Brig.-Gen. Buba Marwa as commending the officers and men of the MMIA, Lagos, FCT, Bayelsa, Borno, Kogi, Kwara, Cross River, Borno and Enugu commands of the agency for the arrests and seizures of the past week.
Marwa equally praised their counterparts in all the commands across the country for ensuring a fair balance between their drug supply reduction and drug demand reduction efforts.
Undergraduates ‘kill’ 21-year-old colleague during altercation over female student
A 21-year-old student of the Federal University Dutsinma in Katsina state has been reportedly murdered by his colleagues during a misunderstanding.
In a statement on Saturday, Aliyu Abubakar-Sadiq, police spokesperson in Katsina, confirmed the development.
Abubakar-Sadiq said the deceased, identified as Abubakar Nasir-Barda, was a 200-level student of the university.
He said the student had a misunderstanding with eight other colleagues over a romantic relationship issue involving a female student of the university.
Abubakar-Sadiq said the student was killed after the argument intensified, adding that the murder was not as a result of a religious issue as purported.
The police spokesperson said the command has arrested six of the students over the incident.
“On Sept. 28, 2023, a tragic incident occurred at Darawa quarters, Dutsinma local government area, involving eight students of the Federal University Dutsinma,” Abubakar-Sadiq said.
“The incident was the result of a heated altercation between the students over a relationship with a fellow female student, which escalated tragically, leading to the death of one of the students involved.”
He said the command has taken the case seriously and is conducting a thorough investigation to determine the factors that led to the murder of the student.
He added that evidence is currently being gathered, adding that anyone with relevant information could share it with the police to help the investigation.
“Including eyewitness testimonies, with the aim of establishing a comprehensive understanding of the events that transpired while upholding the principles of justice and fairness,” he added.
“The commissioner of police in the state, Aliyu Abubakar-Musa, called on the general public to remain calm.
“He also extended his deepest condolences to the family and friends affected by this tragedy and the management of the University.
“We convey our sympathies and support during this difficult time.”
BREAKING: Police rescue eight kidnapped travellers
In a quick-fire response, the Ondo State Police Command, on Saturday, said it had rescued eight out of 25 people who were kidnapped on Friday, less than 20 hours after their abduction.
Twenty-five members of the Christ Apostolic Church, Oke Igan, Akure, Ondo State, were kidnapped by some hoodlums suspected to be gunmen, in the state, on Friday evening
The victims, who were said to be choristers of the church, were reportedly attacked and kidnapped on the Benin-Akure Expressway, around the Ifon area in Ose Local Government Area of the state.
They were said to be travelling to Ifon, for a burial ceremony, while the hoodlums waylaid them and dragged them to an unknown destination in the bush.
Speaking on the development, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs Funmilayo Odunlami, confirmed that eight of the victims had been rescued while efforts were ongoing to rescue the remaining victims.
“Good news!, eight victims rescued, effort is on to rescue others unhurt”, she said on a WhatsApp platform.
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