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Marrakech, Morocco – In a heart-wrenching tragedy, Morocco’s historic city of Marrakech and its surrounding regions were struck by a devastating 6.8-magnitude earthquake that has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people. Morocco Earthquake, the most powerful to hit the North African country in 120 years, has left hundreds more injured, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue operations continue in remote and mountainous areas.
Morocco Earthquake struck late Friday night, sending shockwaves of terror throughout the region. The epicenter of the quake was located approximately 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech, near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province. The shallow depth of the earthquake, coupled with its size, made it particularly destructive, catching many residents off guard.
Residents reported feeling the ground shake for several seconds, with some describing the terrifying sight of dishes and wall hangings crashing down, leaving them struggling to stay on their feet. When daylight broke, the true extent of the devastation became apparent. Stone and masonry buildings, ill-equipped to withstand such force, crumbled, covering entire communities in rubble.
Rescue operations have been ongoing, but the mountainous terrain and damaged roads have made it challenging for rescue teams to access the hardest-hit areas. Villages in the Atlas Mountains and parts of historic Marrakech have been profoundly affected, with homes reduced to ruins.
In Marrakech, an ancient city dating back to the 11th century, the quake has taken a toll on its historical landmarks. The iconic 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque, known as the “roof of Marrakech,” sustained damage, although the full extent remains unclear. Additionally, sections of the famous red walls surrounding the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, have crumbled in places.
The Moroccan government has mobilized its military, deploying aircraft, helicopters, and drones to conduct rescue and aid efforts. Trucks carrying supplies, including blankets, food, and camp cots, are en route to the affected areas. However, with roads blocked by fallen rocks and debris, and many remote towns and villages hard to reach, the situation remains dire.
As of Saturday morning, official reports indicate that over 1,000 people have lost their lives, with an additional 1,204 individuals sustaining injuries. Of the injured, 721 are in critical condition, further emphasizing the urgent need for medical assistance and aid.
Bill McGuire, a professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, highlighted the vulnerability of structures in regions unaccustomed to destructive earthquakes. He stated, “The problem is that where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough to cope with strong ground shaking, so many collapse, resulting in high casualties.” McGuire expects the final death toll to climb into the thousands once the full extent of the disaster is known.
World leaders have extended offers of assistance and condolences to Morocco. Algeria, despite diplomatic tensions, has pledged to open its airspace for humanitarian aid and medical flights. U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his deep sadness over the loss of life and stated that efforts are underway to ensure the safety of American citizens in Morocco.
France and Germany, with significant populations of Moroccan nationals, have also offered support. Leaders from Ukraine and Russia have expressed their solidarity with the Moroccan people, while Turkey, which endured a devastating earthquake earlier in the year, has offered assistance based on its own experiences with disaster recovery.
As Morocco grapples with this tragic event, the nation faces a long and challenging road to recovery. The earthquake serves as a stark reminder of the importance of earthquake-resistant construction and disaster preparedness in regions prone to seismic activity.