At least 296 people were killed after a forceful, 6.8-magnitude earthquake shook Morocco late Friday, according to the national news agency, citing the country’s Interior Ministry. The quake struck at 11:11 p.m. local time, about 44 miles (75 kilometers) southeast of Marrakesh, and sent panicked residents in several cities fleeing to the streets in search of safety.
Marrakesh was among the most affected cities, according to local media, although the shock was also felt in other cities, including in Casablanca, Rabat, and Fez.
The United States Geological Survey said in a prelimiary report that, since 1900, there have been no magnitude 6 or larger earthquakes within 310 miles (500 kilometers) of where Friday’s event occurred in the Atlas mountains, and only nine earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher.
“Earthquakes of this size in the region are uncommon but not unexpected,” a statement said. The organization wrote on social media that “many residences in the region are vulnerable to shaking.”
Unconfirmed social media footage showed buildings decimated and people taking to the streets in fear of another quake. A 4.9-magnitude aftershock 19 minutes later was reported by the USGS.
This is a developing story and will be updated.