A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Morocco on Friday night, killing nearly 300 people and forcing many residents to spend the night on the streets, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
According to the USGS, the earthquake struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountain range shortly after 11 p.m. local time at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometres (11.4 miles), with the epicentre located about 72 kilometres (44.7 miles) southwest of Marrakech, a city of about 840,000 people and a popular tourist destination.
According to Morocco’s state-run Al-Aoula television, at least 296 people were killed and 153 more were injured. Residents were still vulnerable to aftershocks, according to the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces.
“We remind you of the need to exercise caution and take safety measures due to the risk of aftershocks,” the military said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
According to the BBC, the quake on Friday night was exceptionally strong for the area.
“Earthquakes of this magnitude are uncommon in the region, but not unheard of.” There have been no M6 (magnitude 6) or greater earthquakes within 500 km of this earthquake since 1900, and only 9 M5 (magnitude 5) or larger earthquakes,” according to the USGS.
The US authority stated that “significant damage is likely, and the disaster could be widespread,” stressing that many people in the area live in houses that are “highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking.”
On Saturday, state-run Al-Aoula television broadcast footage of many buildings collapsing near the epicentre and stated that thousands of residents had evacuated their houses after the country’s National Institute of Geophysics issued an earthquake warning.
Some houses in Marrakech’s densely packed old city have collapsed, and residents are moving debris by hand while waiting for heavy equipment, according to local resident Id Waaziz Hassan.
Brahim Himmi, a Marrakech local, told Reuters that he observed ambulances leaving the old centre and that many building facades were damaged. People were scared, he claimed, and were remaining outside in fear of another earthquake.
According to eyewitnesses, shaking was also felt in Rabat, Morocco’s capital, about 350 kilometres north of the High Atlas highlands.
Earthquakes in Morocco
Earthquakes can occur in Morocco, as it is located in a seismically active region. Morocco is situated at the boundary between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates, and the interactions between these plates can lead to seismic activity. However, the frequency and intensity of earthquakes in Morocco can vary depending on the specific location within the country.
Some notable earthquakes in Morocco’s history include:
- 1960 Agadir Earthquake: One of the most devastating earthquakes in Morocco’s history, this earthquake occurred on February 29, 1960. It had a magnitude of 5.7 to 6.1 and caused significant destruction in the city of Agadir, resulting in thousands of deaths and widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure.
- 2004 Al Hoceima Earthquake: This earthquake struck the Al Hoceima region on February 24, 2004, with a magnitude of 6.3. It caused several fatalities and significant damage in the affected area.
- 2016 Nador Earthquake: On January 25, 2016, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 struck the northeastern region of Morocco, near Nador. While there were no reported fatalities, it caused some damage to buildings and infrastructure.
Morocco has taken steps to improve its earthquake preparedness and response measures, including building codes and public awareness campaigns. However, the risk of earthquakes remains, especially in certain regions of the country.
It’s important to note that earthquakes are natural events, and their occurrence cannot be predicted with certainty. Therefore, residents and visitors in Morocco should be aware of earthquake safety measures and stay informed about local seismic activity through government agencies and geological organizations.