In a tragic turn of events, Morocco was shaken by a rare and powerful earthquake late Friday night, resulting in a significant loss of life and widespread structural damage. The earthquake’s impact ranged from remote villages in the Atlas Mountains to the renowned city of Marrakech.
According to Morocco’s Interior Ministry, the earthquake has claimed at least 632 lives, with the majority of casualties occurring in Marrakech and five provinces near the epicenter of the quake. An additional 329 individuals have been reported injured, and these figures are expected to rise as search and rescue operations continue to unfold, particularly in remote areas.
The aftermath of the earthquake was captured on Moroccan television, with many residents choosing to stay outdoors, fearing potential aftershocks. Anxiety-stricken families huddled in the streets, some clutching their children, blankets, or essential belongings. Meanwhile, emergency responders, adorned in reflective yellow vests, scoured the wreckage of buildings, their actions illuminated against the nighttime backdrop.
The devastating impact of the quake was evident, as homes were torn apart, and vehicles were nearly buried beneath the debris of collapsed structures. Amid the scattered stones and rubble, personal belongings such as baskets, buckets, and clothing were visible, underscoring the tragedy.
Reports emerged that the iconic 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, one of the city’s most treasured landmarks, sustained damage, though the extent remains uncertain. The mosque’s towering 69-meter (226-foot) minaret, known as the “roof of Marrakech,” is an architectural marvel.
Social media posts from Moroccans also revealed damage to portions of the famous red walls encircling the old city of Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Abderrahim Ait Daoud, the head of a town near the earthquake’s epicenter, conveyed that numerous homes in nearby towns had partially or completely collapsed, and critical infrastructure, including electricity and roads, had been severed in some regions. He further elaborated that due to the vast distances between mountain villages, assessing the full extent of the damage would take time.
Reports indicated that roads leading to the mountainous region surrounding the epicenter were congested with vehicles and obstructed by fallen rocks, hampering rescue efforts.
Messages of condolences and support poured in from around the world. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed their sympathies through various platforms, with India offering assistance to Morocco during this challenging period. A U.N. spokesperson also affirmed the organization’s readiness to assist the Moroccan government in its relief efforts.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the earthquake initially had a magnitude of 6.8 when it struck at 11:11 p.m. (2211 GMT), with tremors lasting several seconds. Subsequently, a magnitude-4.9 aftershock occurred 19 minutes later. The earthquake’s epicenter was located near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, approximately 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech.
The USGS noted that the epicenter was 18 kilometers (11 miles) below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency placed it at a depth of 11 kilometers (7 miles). Shallow earthquakes like this one tend to be more destructive.
Earthquakes are relatively infrequent in North Africa, making this event particularly noteworthy. Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department at the National Institute of Geophysics, stated that this earthquake was the most powerful ever recorded in the mountainous region.
Morocco’s history bears witness to the devastating impact of earthquakes. In 1960, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake near Agadir led to significant loss of life and prompted changes in construction regulations in the country. However, many buildings, especially rural residences, remain ill-equipped to withstand such seismic events.
In 2004, another earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 struck near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima, resulting in over 600 fatalities.
The far-reaching effects of this recent earthquake were felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, underscoring the seismic intensity and the urgent need for comprehensive relief efforts.
As Morocco grapples with the aftermath of this devastating earthquake, the global community stands in solidarity, ready to offer support and assistance to help the affected population recover from this tragic event.