“It felt like a bomb went off,” 34-year-old Mohamed Messi said.

Morocco will observe three days of national mourning with flags at half-staff on all public facilities, the official news agency MAP reported.

World leaders offered to send in aid or rescue crews as condolences poured in from countries in Europe, the Middle East and the Group of 20 summit in India. The president of Turkey, which lost tens of thousands of people in a massive earthquake earlier this year, was among those proposing assistance. France and Germany, with large populations of people of Moroccan origin, also offered to help, and the leaders of both Ukraine and Russia expressed support for Moroccans.

A rescue team from the Israel Defense Forces was also readying for departure to Morocco, pending a formal request from Rabat.

Israeli emergency NGO IsraAID said Saturday it was also prepared to join the relief efforts in Morocco, and planned to dispatch a delegation with aid to Marrakesh and the surrounding area. The group said its team was due to arrive in Marrakesh Sunday and had been in contact with the local Jewish community.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke with his Moroccan counterpart Abdellatif Loudiyi.

“A significant part of the Abraham Accords is our commitment to stand by our partners during national crises. The State of Israel is prepared to assist the Kingdom of Morocco during this difficult time,” Gallant was quoted as saying in a statement from his office, referring to a series of US-backed normalization deals.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said it was also readying to join any aid efforts, dispatching a delegation that will include doctors and nurses, along with medical equipment.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday night that it had accounted for all 479 Israeli citizens Morocco, and there were no reports of any casualties among them.

Israel’s consul in Rabat Dorit Avidani was heading to the hardest-hit Marrakesh area to get a full picture of the needs there, the ministry said.

In an exceptional move, neighboring rival Algeria offered to open its airspace to allow eventual humanitarian aid or medical evacuation flights to travel to and from Morocco. Algeria closed the airspace when its government severed diplomatic ties with Morocco in 2021 over a series of issues. The countries have a decades-long dispute involving the territory of Western Sahara.

The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m. (22:11 GMT), with shaking that lasted several seconds. The U.S. agency reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later. The collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates occurred at a relatively shallow depth, which makes a quake more dangerous.

Earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa. Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department at the National Institute of Geophysics, told 2M TV that the earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in the region.

In 1960, a magnitude 5.8 tremor struck near the Moroccan city of Agadir and caused thousands of deaths. That quake prompted changes in construction rules in Morocco, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors.

In 2004, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima left more than 600 dead.

Friday’s quake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria’s Civil Defense agency, which oversees emergency response.

Source – Times of Israel

– Agencies