Morocco’s strongest-ever earthquake has so far claimed 2,497 lives and injured thousands, with foreign teams today joining the intensifying race against the clock to rescue any remaining survivors from beneath the rubble of flattened mountain villages. 

Terrifying footage shows the moment people ran for their lives as Marrakech was rocked by the powerful 6.8 magnitude quake as it struck around 40 miles away, destroying homes and damaging historic buildings.

Around 300,000 people were affected by the quake, the UN has estimated, with many left homeless or fearing more aftershocks forced to slept on the streets of Marrakech for the past three nights.

CCTV footage shows the moment violent tremors hit a street in the bustling city late on Friday night, with people jumping to their feet and fleeing to safety as buildings crumbled around them, engulfing them in plumes of dust.

Another dramatic video shows a singer and musicians abandoning the stage as the quake shook a wedding party venue in Marrakech. The footage cuts out as guests can be heard screaming while sprinting out of the building.

While historic buildings in Marrakech were severely damaged and many were forced onto the streets, the worst affected areas are rural villages around central Morocco, which pictures show have been completely razed to the ground in many cases.

With countless people still missing, rescuers are now in a growing race against time to dig any survivors from the rubble of devastated mountain villages, with many admitting that this is now a mission to recover bodies.

Relief workers face the challenge of reaching the worst-affected villages in the High Atlas, a rugged mountain range where settlements are often remote and where many houses crumbled.

There have been warnings from teams on the ground that the traditional mud brick, stone and rough wood housing typical of the High Atlas mountain villages has reduced the chances of finding survivors. 

‘It’s difficult to pull people out alive because most of the walls and ceilings turned to earthen rubble when they fell, burying whoever was inside without leaving air spaces,’ a military rescue worker, who asked not to be named, said at an army centre south of Marrakech near the epicentre.

With many homes fashioned out of mud bricks and timber or cement and breeze blocks, structures crumbled easily in mounds of debris when the quake struck late on Friday evening, without creating the pockets of air that earthquake-ready concrete buildings can provide.

In a region not used to such powerful quakes, even concrete homes or buildings often lack anti-seismic design, experts said, leaving survivors and rescuers to sift through mounds of rubble with hardly any walls left, where homes once stood.

‘This kind of collapse causes greater air tightness due to the types of material, like mud brick,’ Antonio Nogales, coordinator of operations for Firemen United without Borders, a Spanish rescue team on the ground, told Spain’s TVE broadcaster.

‘Steel and concrete facilitate the possibility of survivors, but these (mud and brick) materials (common in Morocco) mean that in the first moments the chances of getting people out alive are reduced,’ Nogales said.

Those who have survived Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in more than six decades have been struggling to find food, water and shelter, amid warnings of the humanitarian disaster worsening.