More than 2,000 people have been killed as Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in decades destroyed houses and roads in the tourist city of Marrakesh. This catastrophic event not only impacted the vibrant city but also sent shockwaves through coastal cities like Rabat, Casablanca, and Essaouira. This article delves into the details of this devastating earthquake, its aftermath, and the global response to this tragedy.
The Tremors that Shattered Marrakesh
Epicentre and Magnitude
The epicentre of the 6.8-magnitude quake was in a mountainous area 72 kilometres southwest of Marrakesh. The US Geological Survey reported that it occurred approximately 18.5 km below the Earth’s surface. Morocco’s seismic agency, however, pegged the depth at 11 km. This shallow earthquake intensified its impact, making it even more destructive.
The Unprecedented Intensity
Eyewitnesses described the earthquake as a prolonged and intense event. Residents like Ayoub Toudite compared it to a doomsday scenario, stating, “Ten seconds and everything was gone.” Others, like 19-year-old student Abdelfattah El Akari, reported that it felt like it lasted for more than a minute, with homes cracking and the ground shifting beneath them.
Unusual Seismic Activity in North Africa
Low Seismicity Rates
Earthquakes are not common in North Africa, where seismicity rates are comparatively low along the northern margin of the continent. However, this recent earthquake was unprecedented, marking the strongest-ever recorded in Morocco and the most significant in over 120 years.
The Tectonic Dynamics
Unlike other earthquake-prone regions, Morocco experienced a convergence between Africa and Eurasia or Iberia. This convergence, along with overlapping faults, contributed to the severity of the quake. Philippe Vernant, a specialist in active tectonics, explained that the shifting of tectonic plates led to this devastating event.
The Human Toll: Devastation and Loss
Due to the unexpected nature of the tremors in the region, many people were unprepared. In poor rural communities, approximately 45 kilometres northeast of the epicentre, homes made of clay brick and cinder block were left in ruins, rendering them unsafe to inhabit.
World leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, and others, expressed their condolences and offered support. PM Modi pledged “all possible assistance,” while President Biden expressed deep sorrow over the loss of life. Leaders from China, France, and the European Commission also extended their sympathies and assistance.
Conclusion: Rebuilding and Resilience
In the wake of this devastating earthquake, Morocco faces the daunting task of rebuilding shattered communities and infrastructures. The nation’s resilience will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in overcoming this tragedy. Together, with the support of the international community, Morocco will rise from the rubble, stronger and more united than ever before.
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How rare are earthquakes in North Africa?
Earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa due to comparatively low seismicity rates along the northern margin of the continent.
Why was this earthquake so devastating for Morocco?
The convergence of Africa and Eurasia, along with overlapping faults, contributed to the severity of the earthquake.
How deep was the earthquake’s epicentre?
According to reports, the earthquake’s epicentre was approximately 18.5 km below the Earth’s surface.
What was the global response to the earthquake?
World leaders expressed their condolences and offered support to Morocco. They pledged assistance and expressed deep grief for the victims.
What is the significance of the earthquake’s magnitude?
The 6.8-magnitude quake, combined with its shallow depth, intensified its impact, making it more destructive compared to deeper earthquakes.