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564 Dead in Morocco Earthquake - 2004-02-24


A powerful earthquake in northern Morocco has killed at least 564 people and wounded dozens more.

The tremor struck Tuesday near the Mediterranean port city of Al Hoceima, some 300 kilometers northeast of the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

According to seismologists in the United States and Europe, the quake measured between 6.1 and 6.5 on the Richter scale, and was centered in the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Morocco from Spain.

The quake struck at 2:27 local time (0227 UTC), and was followed by a series of milder aftershocks.

A local official said the earthquake destroyed at least one village and caused serious damage to others nearby. Many of the houses in the devastated villages were built of mud bricks.

Military rescue teams have joined local efforts to search for survivors in the rubble. Helicopters carrying emergency supplies have been dispatched to the affected areas.

One hospital official described the quake as a very violent jolt, and said many people were being treated for broken bones.

Morocco's Interior Ministry said the death toll is expected to rise