Rescuers in Morocco were scrambling Sunday to reach people trapped under the rubble after a powerful earthquake that killed more than 2,100 people and decimated entire villages.
Here’s what we know so far:
– Strongest-ever in Morocco –
A 6.8-magnitude quake, according to the US Geological Survey — the strongest in the North African country’s history — struck Friday at 11:11 pm (2211 GMT) in an area of the Atlas mountain range 72 kilometres (45 miles) southwest of the city of Marrakesh.
It was also felt in the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira, as well as Agadir which in the 1960s had to be completely rebuilt after a devastating tremor.
– Historic city hit –
Friday’s quake caused damage in the tourist hotspot of Marrakesh which is famed for its sprawling medina, or old town, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site of ochre-coloured palaces and markets.
The city’s 12th-century ramparts partially collapsed.
Fearing their homes might collapse too, some residents spent the past two nights camped out on the vast Jemaa el-Fna square.
– Atlas villages crumple –
The worst destruction took place in the remote villages of the High Atlas, in the provinces of Al-Haouz and Taroudant.
The mud-brick villages of Tafeghaghte and Moulay Brahim, near the quake’s epicentre, were almost completely destroyed, AFP reporters witnessed.
In Tafeghaghte alone, some 70 victims out of a population of around 100 people were buried on Saturday.
– Deaths mount –
The quake killed at least 2,122 people and injured 2,421 others, many of whom are in critical condition, according to the latest figures from Morocco’s interior ministry.
Most deaths were recorded in Al-Haouz province, with 1,351, followed by Taroudant where more than 450 lives were lost.
Four French nationals were killed, according to Paris.
– Rescue underway –
The race is on to get teams with heavy-lifting equipment into the worst-hit areas including hard-to-reach mountain villages.
The Moroccan Red Crescent and army are leading the rescue effort.
Caroline Holt of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Saturday that “the next 24 to 48 hours will be critical in terms of saving lives”.
Spain has sent 56 rescue workers along with drilling equipment and four search dogs after an official request from Morocco.
Other countries are waiting for an invitation to be able to intervene.
– Three-day mourning –
Morocco on Saturday proclaimed three days of national mourning, following a meeting presided by King Mohammed VI.