Morocco, a nation known for its captivating landscapes and vibrant culture, was struck by a catastrophic earthquake on Friday night, causing widespread devastation in the High Atlas mountain range. With a magnitude of 6.8, this earthquake marked the deadliest to hit Morocco in decades, leaving over 1,300 people dead and 1,220 in critical condition.
The seismic event occurred shortly after 11 p.m. local time, with the epicenter located approximately 72 kilometers southwest of Marrakech, a bustling city with a population of 840,000 and a renowned tourist destination. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the earthquake had a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.4 miles).
Morocco’s state TV channel, Al Aoula, citing the interior ministry, confirmed the staggering loss of life and the critical condition of many survivors. In response to this disaster, King Mohammed VI of Morocco swiftly ordered the establishment of a relief commission to coordinate the distribution of aid to those in need.
Eyewitnesses described scenes of devastation in the Atlas Mountains foothills, where the majority of casualties occurred due to the earthquake’s proximity to the epicenter. Access to these remote areas became challenging for rescue teams as damaged roads hindered their efforts, as reported by Al Aoula.
The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces issued a warning urging residents to remain vigilant and prepared for potential aftershocks. They stated, “We remind you of the need to exercise caution and take safety measures due to the risk of aftershocks.”
The USGS, acknowledging the rarity of such seismic events in the region, emphasized that earthquakes of this magnitude were uncommon but not entirely unexpected. The agency’s data revealed that there had been no earthquakes measuring magnitude 6 or higher within 500 kilometers of this event since 1900, with only nine earthquakes measuring magnitude 5 or higher. It was also noted that many structures in the affected area were highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking, suggesting that significant damage was likely.
Morocco’s National Institute of Geophysics issued warnings of potential aftershocks, prompting thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Al Aoula broadcasted images of multiple collapsed buildings near the earthquake’s epicenter, further highlighting the widespread destruction caused by this devastating event.
As rescue efforts continue in the remote and mountainous regions of Morocco, the nation mourns the loss of lives and assesses the extensive damage caused by this unprecedented earthquake.