BREAKING: Morocco earthquake death toll rises to at least 685

A building destroyed by the earthquake

A building destroyed by the earthquake in Morocco

Morocco earthquake death toll has jumped to at least 685 with hundreds of people also injured.

A powerful earthquake also destroyed buildings and sent residents of major cities rushing from their homes in the country’s deadliest tremor since at least 2004.

The magnitude 7.2 quake struck in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains late on Friday night. A local official said most deaths were in mountain areas that were hard to reach.

The quake damaged buildings in Marrakech, the nearest big city to the epicenter, where residents spent the night in the open, afraid to go home.

A mosque minaret had fallen in Jemaa al-Fna Square, the heart of Marrakech’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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“We had to run right after the strong quake,” said Jaouhari Mohamed, a resident of the old city, describing desperate scenes as people fled for safety.

“I still can’t sleep in the house because of the shock and also because the old town is made up of old houses. If one falls, it will cause others to collapse,” he said.

Local television showed pictures of rubble lying on smashed cars.

The Interior Ministry urged calm, saying in a televised statement that the quake had hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant.

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