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Morocco Earthquake Claims 564 Lives, Hundreds Injured - 2004-02-25

The deadly earthquake that shook northeastern Morocco Tuesday has killed at least 564 people and injured about 300 more.

A Moroccan Red Crescent official, Abdeslam Makroumy, says rescue teams are working hard to find people who may have survived under the ruins of several remote villages near the port city of Al Hoceima. "There is always hope someone will be found alive," he says.

At least six villages were destroyed when the 6.5 magnitude tremor struck in the middle of the night Tuesday, crumbling many mud brick houses and crushing people inside.

Rescue teams have been struggling to reach all the affected areas, some of which are in mountainous, rural sections of northeastern Morocco.

Moroccan Red Crescent officials set up tents and handed out blankets to protect homeless survivors against the cold, rainy night. Mr. Makroumy says international efforts have contributed to the rescue effort. He says France, Spain, Portugal, Libya, and the United Arab Emirates have all sent expert personnel and relief supplies.

Local hospitals reported being overwhelmed with the dead and injured. Some of the wounded were being treated in army barracks and charity centers. Others were airlifted to regional hospitals.

Morocco's official news agency said the country's leader, King Mohammed, is scheduled to visit the earthquake-ravaged area.