Morocco’s powerful earthquake: What we know so far – Lifotravel

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake has not been seen in the country and surrounding areas in more than 120 years.

Morocco has been struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes it ever experienced, a temblor that killed hundreds of people, destroyed historic buildings, and forced many to flee their homes.

Residents in major cities reported “unbearable” screams as the strong earthquake wreaked havoc across the North African nation, with losses of every kind expected to mount, from human to economic.

Here is what we know so far:

How powerful was the earthquake?

Moroccan media reported it was the most powerful earthquake to hit the country to date.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) put the quake’s magnitude at 6.8 and said it was at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5km (11.5 miles).

Morocco’s geophysical centre, meanwhile, said the quake struck with a magnitude of 7.2.

How many people are affected?

Preliminary reports from Morocco’s interior ministry said the earthquake has killed at least 296 people and injured more than 150. Most of the dead are in hard-to-reach mountain areas.

The earthquake is the country’s deadliest since a 2004 tremor near al-Hoceima, in the northern Rif mountains, killed more than 600 people.

When did it happen?

The earthquake hit after 11pm local time (22:00 GMT) on Friday evening, according to USGS.

Where did it hit?

The earthquake was felt all over the country including in the provinces of al-Haouz, Ouarzazate, Marrakesh, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant.

Where was its epicentre?

The earthquake’s epicentre was near the ski resort of Oukaimeden in the Atlas Mountains, some 75km (44 miles) from Marrakesh.

People gather on a street in Casablanca, following a powerful earthquake in Morocco, September 9, 2023. REUTERS/Abdelhak Balhaki
People gather on a street in Casablanca following the powerful earthquake in Morocco [Abdelhak Balhaki/Reuters]

What damage has been reported so far?

Residents in Marrakesh reported some buildings collapsed in the old city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Footage of the medieval city wall showed large cracks in one section with rubble lying on the street.

Tourists and residents posted videos of people screaming as they fled buildings, as throbbing club music played in the late hours when the earthquake struck.

Video on social media showed part of a minaret collapsed on the famous Jemaa el-Fna square in the historic city, injuring two people.

Were there aftershocks?

The USGS reported a magnitude 4.9 aftershock that hit 19 minutes later.

Men, women and children are staying out in the streets, fearing more aftershocks, according to news reports.

View of a damaged car and debris from the earthquake in Marrakech,
Debris from the earthquake in Marrakesh, Morocco [Al Oula TV via Reuters]

Is an earthquake of this magnitude common in Morocco?

An earthquake of this size has not been seen in the country and surrounding areas in more than 120 years.

“Since 1900, there have been no earthquakes M6 [magnitude 6] or larger within 500km of this earthquake, and only nine M5 [magnitude 5] and larger,” the USGS said on its website.

Was the earthquake felt elsewhere?

The earthquake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria’s Civil Defence agency.

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