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IPFS News Link • Natural Disasters

Powerful quake in Morocco kills more than 2,000 people and damages historic buildings in Marrakech

• BY SAM METZ AND MOSAAB ELSHAMY

More than 2,000 people were killed, and the toll was expected to rise as rescuers struggled Saturday to reach hard-hit remote areas.

The magnitude 6.8 quake, the biggest to hit the North African country in 120 years, sent people fleeing their homes in terror and disbelief late Friday. One man said dishes and wall hangings began raining down, and people were knocked off their feet. The quake brought down walls made from stone and masonry, covering whole communities with rubble.

The devastation gripped each town along the High Atlas' steep and winding switchbacks in similar ways: homes folding in on themselves and mothers and fathers crying as boys and helmet-clad police carried the dead through the streets.

Remote villages like those in the drought-stricken Ouargane Valley were largely cut off from the world when they lost electricity and cellphone service. By midday, people were outside mourning neighbors, surveying the damage on their camera phones and telling one another "May God save us."

Hamid Idsalah, a 72-year-old mountain guide, said he and many others remained alive but had little future to look forward to. That was true in the short-term — with remnants of his kitchen reduced to dust — and in the long-term — where he and many others lack the financial means to rebound.

"I can't reconstruct my home. I don't know what I'll do. Still, I'm alive, so I'll wait," he said as he walked through the desert oasis town overlooking red rock hills, packs of goats and a glistening salt lake. "I feel heartsick."