This is a developing story.
A powerful earthquake that struck about 50 miles from the Moroccan city of Marrakesh late Friday killed at least 296 people, the authorities said early Saturday, as a frantic rescue effort took shape in the hours before dawn.
The Moroccan armed forces announced the confirmed death toll of 296 in a post on X, formerly known on Twitter, soon after releasing a preliminary estimate saying that about 100 had been killed. The military said the figures were from the country’s Interior Ministry.
The quake in the High Atlas Mountains had a magnitude of 6.8 and a depth of about 11 miles, the United States Geological Survey said in a preliminary report. The Associated Press reported that it damaged buildings and sent people pouring into the streets of Marrakesh and other Moroccan cities.
The epicenter of the earthquake was just over 30 miles west of Oukaimeden, a popular Moroccan ski resort, the U.S.G.S. said. Oukaimeden is near Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, and about 50 miles southeast of Marrakesh, a city of more than 800,000 people.
Agadir, another city in the area, has a population of nearly 700,000.
The U.S.G.S. said earthquakes this large in the area were “uncommon but not unexpected,” and that there had been no earthquakes of 6 magnitude or larger there since 1900.
Based on the area’s overall population and the types of buildings there, the U.S.G.S. said, there was a 23 percent chance that the total number of shaking-related fatalities from the earthquake would be between 100 and 1,000. But only about 172,000 people live in the area around the epicenter, it said.
The predominant type of vulnerable buildings in the region are made from adobe blocks and unreinforced bricks, the agency said.