Morocco’s King Mohammed VI directs country to pray as earthquake death toll rises to 2,012

The body of a victim on a stretcher is carried by men to a health center in Amizmiz, south of Marrakesh, on Sunday following a powerful earthquake in Morocco. A magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck central Morocco late Friday has killed at least 2,012 people. Photo by Jalal Morchidi/EPA-EFE

Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The death toll has risen to more than 2,000 after a devastating earthquake hit Morocco on Friday night, officials said late Saturday.

Morocco's Interior Ministry said in a statement that 2,012 deaths have been recorded as well as 2,059 people injured, of which 1,404 are considered in serious condition.

The majority of victims, 1,293 of them, were located in the country's Al Haouz province, just south of the city of Marrakesh. There were 15 deaths tied to the earthquake recorded in Marrakesh, a major city with a population around a million.

There were also 452 deaths recorded in the Taroudant province and 41 in the Ouarzazate province, Interior Ministry officials said.

King Mohammed VI has directed mosques in the country to hold afternoon prayers Sunday "out of mercy for the souls of the martyrs of the earthquake," Morocco's Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs said in a statement.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, King Mohammed ordered the Royal Armed forces to urgently deploy along with search and rescue teams and a surgical field hospital.

"Intervention units, aircraft, helicopters, drones, engineering means, and logistical centers were also deployed on the spot with the aim of providing the necessary support to the various sectors concerned and the affected population," the government said in a statement.

Algeria, which closed its airspace to neighbor Morocco in 2021 over a decades-long territorial dispute, released a statement Sunday offering to open its airspace to aid in humanitarian and medical evacuation flights.

"Following the violent earthquake that struck areas of the Kingdom of Morocco, the higher Algerian authorities expressed their full readiness to provide humanitarian aid and deploy all material and human capabilities, in solidarity with the brotherly Moroccan people, in the event of a request from the Kingdom of Morocco," the Algerian government said in its statement.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 6.8-magnitude earthquake was the strongest to hit around the ancient city of Marrakech in a century.