Morocco Earthquake — More than 800 people died and several buildings were damaged by a rare, violent earthquake that slammed Morocco late on Friday night. The damage ranged from communities in the Atlas Mountains to the ancient city of Marrakech. The entire toll, however, remained unknown as rescuers battled to reach the isolated mountain towns most severely affected along routes littered with boulders.
The earthquake sparked everyone up, and they fled into the streets in shock and fear. People gathered in the streets of Marrakech late at night, frightened to enter buildings that could still be unstable, as seen on state television.
A man claimed he was in a neighboring flat building when plates and wall hangings started falling, throwing people off their chairs and their feet. A woman said that an “intense vibration” caused her to leave her home. The shaking, according to a guy cradling a toddler, jolted him out of his sleep.
The magnitude-6.8 earthquake, which devastated historic cities composed of stone and masonry that was not built to resist quakes, was the strongest to strike Morocco in 120 years.
“The problem is that where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough to cope with strong ground shaking, so many collapses resulting in high casualties,” said Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. “I would expect the final death toll to climb into the thousands once more is known. As with any big quake, aftershocks are likely, which will lead to further casualties and hinder search and rescue.”
The famed Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, which was constructed in the 12th century, sustained damage, though the degree was not immediately known. The minaret’s 69-meter (226-foot) height has earned it the moniker “roof of Marrakech.” Videos depicting damage to some of the well-known red walls that encircle the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, were also shared online by Moroccans.
According to the Moroccan Interior Ministry’s early-morning estimate on Saturday, there were at least 820 fatalities, most of whom were in Marrakech and five other regions. There were also 672 injuries. The government reported that 205 of the victims were critically harmed.
Rescuers continued their search for survivors into the night amid the gloom, dust, and debris.
The mayor of a town close to the epicenter of the earthquake reported to Moroccan news outlet 2M that numerous homes in other towns had partially fallen and that roads and power had been cut off in several areas.
The mayor of Talat N’Yaaqoub, Abderrahim Ait Daoud, stated that while efforts are being made to clear roads in Al Haouz Province to give access to ambulances and help to those in need, it would take some time to determine the full extent of the devastation due to the distances between mountain settlements.
The Moroccan military and emergency services mobilized relief efforts to the damaged areas, however, highways leading to the mountain region surrounding the epicenter were congested with cars and obstructed by crumbled rocks, delaying rescue operations. According to the government news agency MAP, trucks stocked with blankets, camp cots, and lighting supplies were attempting to reach that severely affected area. Ambulances with sirens blasting and honking automobiles steered past masses of red rock that resembled Mars that had fallen from the slope and obstructed the road as it wound its way from Marrakech to Al Haouz. Red Cross personnel made an effort to move a boulder that was obstructing the two-lane road.
Ambulances and motorbikes whirred by the outskirts of the old city later on Saturday morning in Marrakech, where most activities were as usual. Roadblocks were crossed by tourists and onlookers as they took pictures of the broken clay orange wall fragments and dust on the pavement and roadway.
As condolences flowed in from nations around Europe, a Group of 20 meeting in India, nations throughout Europe, the Mideast, and beyond, world leaders promised to send in help or rescue workers. One of those offering aid was Turkey’s president, whose nation lost tens of thousands of citizens in a devastating earthquake earlier this year. With sizable populations of individuals with Moroccan ancestry, France and Germany also assisted, while the presidents of both Russia and Ukraine reaffirmed their support for Moroccans.
To bring in foreign rescue teams, the Moroccan government must first publicly request assistance.
The U.S. Geological Survey said that the earthquake, which struck at 11:11 p.m. (2211 GMT) and caused shaking that lasted several seconds, had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8. A magnitude-4.9 aftershock was recorded 19 minutes later, according to the American agency.
Around 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech, in the Al Haouz Province, was where the epicenter of the tremor that occurred on Friday was located. Al Haouz is renowned for its picturesque settlements perched on mountain slopes and nestled away in the High Atlas.
Morocco’s seismic service estimated the epicenter to be 11 kilometers (7 miles) below the surface of the Earth, compared to 18 kilometers (11 miles) according to the USGS. These little earthquakes are more hazardous.
According to official statistics, the Marrakech-Safi area, home to more than 4.5 million people, suffered major damages and fatalities, according to early reports.
In North Africa, earthquakes are hardly common. The National Institute of Geophysics’ Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department, informed 2M TV that the earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in the area.
Numerous fatalities were caused by a magnitude 5.8 earthquake that occurred in 1960 close to the Moroccan city of Agadir.
Morocco changed its building regulations in response to the Agadir earthquake, but many structures, particularly rural dwellings, are not constructed to resist severe shocks.
More than 600 people died in a 6.4 magnitude earthquake that occurred in 2004 close to the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima.
According to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria’s Civil Defence organization, which is in charge of emergency response, Friday’s earthquake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria.