RABAT: At least 82 people died when a strong earthquake shook northern Morocco yesterday around the Mediterranean port city of Al Hoceima, officials said, warning the death toll was likely to rise.
Villages around Al Hoceima were badly damaged, people were still buried under the rubble and the main hospital was too small to cope with the scale of the disaster, officials said.
As soon as we think we've seen all the dead and injured, more keep coming in ambulances, said an official at Al Hoceima's main Mohammed V hospital. Many of the injured were being treated in an army barracks and in small health centres.
Morocco's MAP state news agency put the death toll at 82 in the worst quake to rock the North African country in more than 40 years.
Josephine Shields, North African delegate for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Tunis, said: What we have so far from the Moroccan Red Crescent is that approximately 120 people have been killed and about 200 injured, but that figure is going to rise.
She said six villages within 15km of Al Hoceima had been hit.
Ait Kamara has been reported to be totally destroyed. We've been told that the entire affected area has between 300,000 and 400,000 people. It is a remote area, very mountainous, so it is a bit difficult to access.
She said victims needed blankets, warm clothing, food and water. There is possibly a need for a field hospital as local health facilities are basically saturated, she added.
A civil defence spokesman in Al Hoceima said there were many dead in Ait Kamara, 14km to the south.
So far rescue workers have found 15 bodies in that village alone, he said by telephone. Most houses in the village were built of mud bricks and collapsed.
MAP said a rescue operation involving army and navy troops, backed by helicopters, was under way. King Mohammed cancelled his appointments to supervise rescue operations, a member of the royal palace said.
Morocco's worst recorded quake was in 1960. It destroyed the southern Atlantic city of Agadir, killing 12,000 people. Reuters
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