In a harrowing turn of events, Morocco was shaken to its core as a powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck on Friday night, claiming the lives of at least 296 people, according to the interior ministry. The catastrophic quake left a trail of destruction, reducing buildings to rubble, and even affecting the iconic red walls that encircle the historic city of Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Additionally, 153 individuals were injured and required hospitalization. Most of the devastation occurred in areas outside of urban centers.
The Tremor: The earthquake initially registered a preliminary magnitude of 6.8, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), when it struck at 11:11 pm, with prolonged shaking that lasted several seconds. However, Morocco’s National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale. A magnitude-4.9 aftershock occurred 19 minutes later.
Widespread Damage: The seismic shockwaves inflicted damage on buildings in major cities, sending residents and tourists into the streets in a state of panic. The tremors were felt as far away as the neighboring countries of Portugal and Algeria. The consequences of this disaster rippled across the region.
Epicenter: The epicenter of the earthquake was located high in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 70 kilometers south of Marrakech. This area is not only known for its breathtaking landscapes but also houses Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak, and Oukaimeden, a popular Moroccan ski resort. The USGS reported that the epicenter was 18 kilometers below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency placed it at 8 kilometers deep.
International Reactions: World leaders expressed their condolences and offered support to Morocco in its time of crisis. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his sorrow over the loss of lives and offered assistance to Morocco, stating, “In this tragic hour, my thoughts are with the people of Morocco. Condolences to those who have lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. India is ready to offer all possible assistance to Morocco in this difficult time.”
Although earthquakes are relatively rare in North Africa, the region experienced a devastating magnitude 5.8 tremor near Agadir in 1960, resulting in a significant loss of life.
The earthquake in Morocco stands as a stark reminder of the unpredictable forces of nature that can profoundly impact our lives. As the nation mourns its losses and embarks on the journey of recovery, the global community joins in offering support, solidarity, and hope for a brighter future.