Morocco quake death toll rises to over 2,000

The death toll from Friday’s magnitude 6.8 quake in Morocco has reached 2,012, with another 2,059 injured, the country’s Interior Ministry said.

Of the injured, 1,404 were seriously hurt, the government said Saturday, as military personnel and ambulance staff continued rescue operations in the central part of the North African country.

More than 300,000 people in Marrakech and its outskirts in central Morocco have been affected by the earthquake, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Many people trapped inside collapsed homes have been rescued, but search efforts will likely face difficulties with roads blocked by debris.

“Some of the worst-affected areas are quite remote and mountainous, therefore hard to reach,” the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement.

The organization called for international support, saying months to years of assistance will be required.

The powerful quake occurred on Friday night, with the epicenter south of Marrakech, a popular tourist area with historic buildings.

Morocco’s royal family on Saturday declared a three-day mourning period and ordered flags at all government buildings be flown at half-staff.

Among Japanese in Morocco affected by the quake, Hikaru Iwama, a 43-year-old resident of Marrakech, told Kyodo News via telephone that a crack had appeared in the wall at the hotel she runs.

Iwama said many people took refuge on the streets even hours after the shaking subsided. “Perhaps they don’t want to go back inside for fear of aftershocks,” she said.

By Perviz Iqbal