A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 struck Morocco, centered in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 50 miles from Marrakesh. The catastrophe unfolded overnight, causing widespread destruction and tragically claiming the lives of over 1,000 people, according to Morocco’s interior ministry, with several hundred others sustaining injuries.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed the sorrow felt across the United States. He said, “On behalf of the people of the United States, I express my deep sadness at the loss of life and destruction caused by yesterday’s earthquake in Morocco and extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of those affected. The United States is ready to provide any necessary assistance as Morocco responds to this tragedy. Our thoughts are with the Moroccan people, and we offer our unwavering support and solidarity to our Moroccan partners at this tragic time.”
The seismic event, the strongest to affect the region in over a century, occurred shortly after 11 p.m. on Friday. The United States Geological Survey reported that the earthquake’s epicenter was at a depth of approximately 11 miles. The tremors were felt not only in Marrakesh but also in Agadir on the Atlantic coast and Ouarzazate, creating a state of panic among the populace.
Residents who experienced the earthquake described the initial confusion rapidly giving way to chaos as buildings shook and objects tumbled. Yacine Kourkouz, a resident of Marrakesh, shared his experience, recounting a night of horror. Many residents fled their homes, spending the night outdoors due to the fear of aftershocks.
The aftermath of this disaster has prompted international assistance, with France, a former colonial power in Morocco, offering its support. The French Embassy in Morocco has established a crisis hotline, and the mayor of Marseille, a French city, pledged to send firefighters to aid in the rescue efforts in Marrakesh.
Marrakesh, known for its ancient medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, witnessed significant damage, with reports of collapsed houses and residents manually clearing debris as they awaited further assistance.
As of the early morning hours, the full extent of the casualties and damages was still being assessed. The affected region, which includes about 1.8 million people, is now the focus of intense rescue operations amid a mounting humanitarian crisis.
This tragic earthquake serves as a grim reminder of the vulnerability of many buildings in Morocco to seismic activity, despite efforts by the government to enforce stricter construction standards. Rural areas with earthen houses are particularly affected, which often prove incapable of withstanding powerful quakes.
The earthquake’s epicenter was in the High Atlas Mountains, a remote region that presents logistical challenges for relief efforts. Despite the difficulties, rescue teams tirelessly work to locate survivors and provide aid.
The deadliest earthquake in Morocco’s recent history occurred in 1960, with a magnitude of 5.8, resulting in approximately 12,000 fatalities. In the face of this latest disaster, Morocco faces the immediate challenge of rescue and recovery and the long-term task of enhancing building resilience in quake-prone areas.
As the nation grapples with this tragedy, international solidarity, and assistance will undoubtedly play a crucial role in aiding the affected communities and facilitating recovery.