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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Morocco struck by powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake

A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country, particularly impacting the historic city of Marrakech.

Morocco faced a seismic catastrophe on Friday that would leave its mark on history. A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country, particularly impacting the historic city of Marrakech. This devastating event, characterized as the strongest tremor in over a century by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), led to the loss of nearly 300 lives and extensive damage to both buildings and infrastructure.

Earthquake’s Impact 

The earthquake’s epicenter was situated approximately 72 kilometers southwest of Marrakech, a city known for its vibrant culture and historical significance. The shallow depth of the quake, at just 18.5 kilometers, amplified its destructive force. The earthquake’s epicenter in the High Atlas mountain range led to extensive destruction, particularly in the mountain village of Asni, where many homes were reduced to rubble. Further west in Taroudant, residents experienced both the initial quake and subsequent aftershocks. Even the capital city, Rabat, located some 350 kilometers away from the epicenter, felt the ground shake, underscoring the widespread reach of this seismic event. As the tremors rippled through the region, they claimed the lives of at least 296 people and left 153 others wounded, according to Morocco’s Interior Ministry.

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Night of Fear

Following the earthquake, many Moroccans spent a sleepless night on the streets of multiple cities, gripped by fear of aftershocks. Desperate efforts were launched to locate and rescue those trapped in the rubble, while health authorities urgently appealed for blood donations to aid the injured. Mountainous terrain and damaged roads posed challenges for rescue teams, hindering their access to the worst affected areas.

Unprecedented Strength

The USGS noted that the earthquake’s magnitude was unusually high for this region. “Earthquakes of this size in the region are uncommon, but not unexpected,” they stated. This event surpassed anything recorded in the last century, with no earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger occurring within 500 kilometers of this epicenter since 1900.

Ongoing Risks 

As the aftershocks continued to rattle the region, the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces issued a warning to residents, urging them to remain vigilant. These secondary tremors further exacerbated the challenges faced by both survivors and rescue teams.

“The chandelier fell from the ceiling and I ran out. I’m still in the road with my children and we’re scared,”

-Houda Hafsi, a 43-year-old Marrakech resident

Thousands of people were compelled to flee their homes, and the fear of another quake kept them outdoors, even in the ancient city of Marrakech.

Cultural Gem in Ruins

Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a history spanning nearly a millennium, suffered significant damage during the earthquake. Medieval-era palaces, mosques, and bustling markets were not spared. The city’s iconic red sandstone buildings, which earned it the moniker “the red city,” faced substantial structural damage. Some of the ancient walls that date back to the 12th century were also affected.

Resilience Amidst Adversity

Despite the devastation, the Moroccan people displayed remarkable resilience. Communities rallied together to aid in rescue efforts, working tirelessly to free their neighbors from the rubble. Ambulances raced through the narrow streets of Marrakech, while citizens shared stories of survival and solidarity. It is in these moments of adversity that the strength of a nation truly shines.

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The powerful earthquake that shook Morocco, particularly Marrakech, is a stark reminder of nature’s unpredictability. The loss of lives and cultural heritage is deeply tragic, but the resilience and unity demonstrated by the Moroccan people in the face of adversity offer a glimmer of hope for the future.