“Our neighbours are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village,” he said.
The village of Tansghart in the Ansi area, on the side of a valley where the road from Marrakesh rises up into the High Atlas, was the worst hit of any Reuters saw. Its once-pretty houses, clinging to a steep hillside, were cracked open by the shaking ground. Those still standing were missing chunks of wall or plaster. Two mosque minarets had fallen.
Abdellatif Ait Bella, a labourer, lay on the ground, barely able to move or speak, his head bandaged from wounds caused by falling debris.
“We have no house to take him to and have had no food since yesterday,” said his wife Saida Bodchich, fearing for the future of their family of six with their sole breadwinner so badly hurt. “We can rely on nobody but God.”
The village is already mourning ten deaths including two teenage girls, an inhabitant said.
Tremors were felt as far away as Huelva and Jaen in southern Spain. The World Health Organisation said more than 300,000 people were affected in Marrakesh and surrounding areas.
Street camera footage in Marrakesh showed the moment the earth began to shake, as men suddenly looked around and jumped up, and others ran for shelter into an alleyway and then fled as dust and debris tumbled around them.
In the heart of the old city, a UNESCO world heritage site, a mosque minaret had fallen in Jemaa al-Fna Square. Some houses in the tightly packed old city collapsed and people used their hands to remove debris while they waited for heavy equipment, said resident Id Waaziz Hassan.
Morocco declared three days of national mourning, during which the national flag will be flown at half staff throughout the country, the royal court said on Saturday.
The Moroccan armed forces will deploy rescue teams to provide affected areas with clean drinking water, food supplies, tents and blankets, it added.
Turkey, where powerful earthquakes in February killed more than 50,000 people, was among nations expressing solidarity and offering to provide support.
Algeria, which broke off ties with Morocco in 2021 after escalating tensions between the countries focused on the Western Sahara conflict, said it would open airspace for humanitarian and medical flights.
The quake was recorded at a depth of 18.5 kilometres, typically more destructive than deeper quakes of the same magnitude. It was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 when a quake was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people, according to the US Geological Survey.
Mohammad Kashani, associate professor of structural and earthquake engineering at the University of Southampton, compared scenes of the aftermath to images from Turkey in February. “The area is full of old and historical buildings, which are mainly masonry. The collapsed reinforced concrete structures that I saw … were either old or substandard.”
Marrakesh is due to host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank from October 9.
An IMF spokesperson, asked about the planned meetings, said: “Our sole focus at this time is on the people of Morocco and the authorities who are dealing with this tragedy.”