Reuters cited the Interior Ministry that the number constituted a preliminary death toll and that 153 people had been injured. A local official said most deaths were in mountain areas that were hard to reach.
Residents of Marrakech, the nearest big city to the epicenter, said some buildings had collapsed in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and local television showed pictures of a fallen mosque minaret with rubble lying on smashed cars.
The Interior Ministry, in its televised statement on the death toll, urged calm and said the quake had hit the provinces of Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant.
Morocco’s geophysical center said the quake struck in the Ighil area of the High Atlas with a magnitude of 7.2. The US Geological Survey put the quake’s magnitude at 6.8 and said it was at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km (11.5 miles).
Ighil, a mountainous area with small farming villages, is about 70 km (40 miles) southwest of Marrakech. The quake struck just after 11 p.m. (2200 GMT).
The earthquake is Morocco’s deadliest since a 2004 tremor near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains which killed over 600 people.