More than 2,000 people have been killed as Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in decades destroyed houses and roads in the tourist city of Marrakesh.
The strong tremors were also felt in the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira, where it caused widespread damage and sent terrified residents and tourists scrambling to safety in the middle of the night on Friday.
In the mountain village of Tafeghaghte, which was near the quake’s epicentre, there were no buildings left standing while the traditional clay bricks used by the region’s Berber inhabitants proved no match for the rare quake.
But why was the earthquake so devastating and the reason why Morocco was ill-prepared for a tremor like the latest one. News18 explains.
Why Was the Earthquake Devastating
The epicentre of the 6.8-magnitude quake was in a mountainous area 72 kilometres southwest of the tourist city of Marrakesh, the US Geological Survey reported.
The epicentre was roughly 18.5 km below the Earth’s surface, according to USGS, while Morocco’s own seismic agency pegged the depth at 11 km.
It was a shallow earthquake, which according to experts, are more dangerous as the closer you get to the surface, the greater the effect of the rupture.
According to reports, in case of deeper earthquakes, the seismic waves have to travel a longer distance before reaching to the surface. During this delay the tremors lose energy to the surroundings. While in case of shallow quakes, the seismic waves are able to bring more energy to the surface and cause more damage.
Eyewitnesses said that the earthquake was strong and for a longer period.
“We felt a huge shake like it was doomsday,” Ayoub Toudite, a resident, said. “Ten seconds and everything was gone.”
Others, like 19-year-old student Abdelfattah El Akari, said the quake felt much longer, as if more than a minute. “The ground moved and homes cracked,” he said.
Earthquakes are also not very common in North Africa where seismicity rates are comparatively low along the northern margin of the continent.
However, the latest earthquake was the strongest-ever to hit the North African kingdom and an expert described it as the region’s “biggest in more than 120 years". The epicentre of the quake was not in the most active area of Morocco.
Due to the unlikely of the tremors in the region, people were not prepared for one. People in the poor rural community about 45 kilometres northeast of the quake epicentre lived in homes made of clay brick and cinder block, many of which are no longer standing or safe to inhabit.
Was it similar to Turkey quake?
The massive February earthquake in Turkey had horizontal movement, because the country is shifting to the West, moving towards Greece. There was a horizontal sliding of the tectonic plates.
But in Morocco, there was a convergence between Africa and Eurasia or Iberia, the Spanish part, and overlapping faults, Philippe Vernant, a specialist in active tectonics at the University of Montpellier, told AFP.
World Leaders Express Grief
World leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden and others express their condolences over the tragedy and offered support.
PM Modi offered “all possible assistance” to Morocco, on Saturday and said, “Extremely pained by the loss of lives due to an earthquake in Morocco. In this tragic hour, my thoughts are with the people of Morocco. Condolences to those who have lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. India is ready to offer all possible assistance to Morocco in this difficult time.”
US President Joe Biden said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation". Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressed “deep grief for the victims" and hope that “the Moroccan government and people will be able to overcome the impact of this disaster".
French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “devastated" and said that “France stands ready to help with first aid". European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed sympathy “with the Moroccan people in the face of the terrible earthquake".