At least 2,000 dead, 2,000 injured after earthquake in Morocco

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MOROCCO — More than 2,000 people are dead in the northwestern African country of Morocco after a devastating earthquake.

At least 2,012 people died in the quake, mostly in Marrakech and five provinces near the epicenter, Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported Saturday night. At least 2,059 more people were injured — 1,404 critically — the ministry said.

Of the injured, the ministry wrote, 1,404 were in critical condition.

The earthquake happened after 11 p.m. Friday night.

The U.S. Geological Survey says it was a shallow earthquake, with a 6.8 magnitude, the biggest to hit Morocco in 120 years. It was later followed by a 4.9 magnitude of aftershock.

This is reportedly the strongest earthquake ever recorded in this part of the world — which very rarely sees earthquakes.

Rescue crews have begun their search for survivors. The death toll is expected to rise as the search continues.

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.”

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI ordered the armed forces to mobilize air and land assets, specialized search and rescue teams and a surgical field hospital, according to a statement from the military. The king said he would visit the hardest hit area Saturday, but despite an outpouring of offers of help from around the world, the Moroccan government had not formally asked for assistance, a step required before outside rescue crews could deploy.

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.

Includes reporting from Associated Press writers Sam Metz and Mosa’ab Eishamy