A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.8 struck Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, causing widespread devastation and loss of life. The earthquake’s epicenter was near the city of Marrakech, a popular tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The quake occurred at 11:11 p.m. on a Friday night, leading to panic and chaos as buildings collapsed and people fled their homes in various cities.
In Marrakech, some buildings in the old city, which is densely packed with historic structures, collapsed. Notably, a mosque minaret fell, crushing cars beneath it. The earthquake’s impact extended beyond the city, causing significant damage in the surrounding provinces. The Moroccan government reported at least 296 fatalities and 153 injuries, with most of the damage occurring in rural and mountainous areas that were difficult to access.
Witnesses in the affected areas described the ground shaking for approximately 20 seconds, with aftershocks following the initial quake. In some places, ambulances rushed to the scene, and people were seen working to clear debris by hand as they awaited heavy equipment.
The earthquake’s epicenter was identified as the Ighil area of the High Atlas, approximately 70 kilometers southwest of Marrakech. The US Geological Survey estimated the magnitude at 6.8 and noted that it had a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers.
As a result of the earthquake, residents in cities like Rabat and Imsouane, located farther from the epicenter, also fled their homes due to fears of further tremors. The quake’s impact extended to neighboring countries, with reports of tremors felt in Portugal and Algeria.
Morocco, located at the convergence of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates, is prone to seismic activity, particularly in its northern regions. This earthquake is a tragic reminder of the vulnerability of the region’s infrastructure to earthquakes.
In the past, Morocco has experienced significant earthquakes, including a deadly quake in al-Hoceima in 2004 that claimed hundreds of lives and caused extensive injuries. Additionally, neighboring Algeria experienced a devastating 7.3-magnitude earthquake in 1980, known as the El Asnam earthquake, which resulted in thousands of fatalities and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
The earthquake also caused disruptions in internet connectivity in Marrakech due to power outages in the region, as reported by the global internet monitor NetBlocks.
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