Tragedy Strikes Morocco: Devastating 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake Claims Over 1,000 Lives
In a devastating turn of events, Morocco was struck by a powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake that has left a trail of destruction and loss. Official reports, as of Saturday, confirm the tragic loss of at least 1,037 lives, with over 1,200 individuals sustaining injuries, including 205 in critical condition. This seismic catastrophe not only claimed lives but also wrought havoc on ancient structures, driving terrified residents from their homes into the safety of the streets.
Morocco’s state television relayed this grim toll, citing the Ministry of Interior as its source. Among the casualties are the historic buildings in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Marrakesh, where some structures crumbled, and a mosque minaret collapsed, burying cars under rubble. The quake’s epicenter was identified in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 75 kilometers (44 miles) from Marrakesh, the country’s fourth-largest city.
The earthquake struck with suddenness, unleashing chaos in its wake. Search and rescue teams, in a frantic bid, are working tirelessly to extricate those trapped within the debris of collapsed buildings. The Interior Ministry issued a televised statement, urging the population to remain calm and informing them that the quake affected provinces such as Al Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakesh, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant.
The temblor, as reported by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), occurred just after 11 pm local time on Friday evening. It was described as a night of horrors by journalist Noureddine Bazine from Marrakesh. He highlighted that the old city of Marrakesh suffered the most damage due to its fragile infrastructure.
Eid al-Tarazi, a seismology professor from Jordan, warned of the potential for hundreds of aftershocks and advised people to steer clear of fragile structures. The aftershocks could persist for three to four weeks, posing ongoing risks to the population.
Rescue efforts are further hampered by jammed roads leading to the mountainous region around the epicenter, littered with vehicles and blocked by collapsed rocks. Abderrahim Ait Daoud, the head of a local town, reported partially or fully collapsed homes, disrupted electricity, and impassable roads. The vast distances between mountain villages make it challenging to ascertain the full extent of the damage.
As devastating visuals circulate on social media, showcasing reduced buildings and damaged parts of Marrakesh’s historic red walls, the world has started to express solidarity. World leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have offered condolences and assistance. The United Nations has also extended its readiness to support Morocco in this time of crisis.
While earthquakes are uncommon but not entirely unexpected in the region, this magnitude of an earthquake hasn’t been experienced in the immediate area for over a century. The last major earthquake in Morocco was in 2004, known as the al-Hoceima earthquake, which claimed over 600 lives. This latest catastrophe is a stark reminder of the unpredictability and devastation that seismic events can bring to this region.