Earthquake Hits Morocco
Earthquake Hits Morocco, Claiming 300 Lives and Inflicting Damage on Historic Marrakech
Late on a Friday night, a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 struck Morocco, leaving a tragic toll in its wake. Nearly 300 lives were lost, and countless residents found themselves spending the night outdoors, seeking refuge in the streets. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), this seismic event was the most powerful to hit this part of North Africa in over a century.
The earthquake’s epicenter was situated in Morocco’s High Atlas mountain range, at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.4 miles). This devastating event occurred approximately 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of Marrakech, a vibrant city with a population of around 840,000 people and a renowned tourist destination.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported 296 fatalities and 153 injuries, with the majority of casualties concentrated in remote mountain areas, making rescue efforts challenging.
The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces issued a cautionary message, reminding residents of the persistent risk of aftershocks: “We remind you of the need to exercise caution and take safety measures due to the risk of aftershocks.”
The USGS underscored the unusual strength of this earthquake for the region, stating, “Earthquakes of this size in the region are uncommon, but not unexpected. Since 1900, there have been no earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger within 500 kilometers of this earthquake, and only 9 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or larger.”
The USGS also predicted significant damage and widespread devastation, noting that many structures in the affected area were highly vulnerable to the shaking caused by the earthquake.
Images broadcast by state-run Al-Aoula television revealed collapsed buildings near the epicenter and reported thousands of people evacuating their homes following warnings of aftershocks from the National Institute of Geophysics.
In the mountain village of Asni, near the epicenter, most houses suffered damage. Local resident Montasir Itri described the scene: “Our neighbors are under the rubble, and people are working tirelessly to rescue them using whatever means are available in the village.”
The tremors extended westward to Taroudant, where residents reported aftershocks following the initial quake. Hamid Afkar, a teacher in the area, recounted, “The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor.”
The impact of the earthquake reached Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its rich history dating back nearly a millennium. Some houses in this historic city had collapsed, and locals came together to clear debris by hand while awaiting heavy equipment. Residents described their fear and the damage they witnessed in this iconic city.
Marrakech, often referred to as the “red city” because of its distinctive red sandstone buildings, is a former imperial city that drew nearly three million tourists in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. It boasts a wealth of culture and history, with its medieval-era palaces, mosques, gardens, and bustling markets.
Additionally, Marrakech is Morocco’s fourth-largest city and serves as a significant economic hub. The earthquake had ripple effects, with shaking even felt in the capital city of Rabat, some 350 kilometers (217 miles) to the north of the High Atlas mountains. Eyewitnesses in Rabat reported the tremors, underscoring the widespread impact of this tragic event.