Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains Struck by Devastating Earthquake
In a tragic turn of events, Morocco’s High Atlas mountains bore witness to a catastrophic earthquake that left devastation in its wake. The powerful tremor, which occurred late on Friday, has already claimed the lives of at least 820 people, with hundreds more injured. This report provides an informative and neutral overview of the situation, detailing the extent of the damage, the government’s response, and the international community’s reaction.
The Tremor’s Impact
The earthquake, with a magnitude of 7.2 according to Morocco’s geophysical center (6.8 according to the US Geological Survey), struck the Ighil area of the High Atlas mountains. It delivered a devastating blow to the region, causing widespread destruction as buildings crumbled and residents fled their homes. The quake struck shortly after 11 PM local time (10 PM GMT), catching many by surprise.
The majority of casualties occurred in Marrakech and five provinces near the earthquake’s epicenter, as reported by Morocco’s Interior Ministry. Regrettably, the death toll is expected to rise further as rescue efforts continue and authorities access remote areas.
Bill McGuire, a professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, expressed his concerns, stating that the final death toll is likely to climb into the thousands as more information becomes available. He highlighted the potential for aftershocks, which could result in additional casualties and impede search and rescue operations.
Morocco’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak extended his condolences, emphasizing the United Kingdom’s readiness to support Morocco during this challenging time. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly affirmed that the UK is providing assistance to British nationals affected by the earthquake.
Impact on Heritage Sites
The historic city of Marrakech, located closest to the epicenter, witnessed damage to some of its iconic landmarks. The Koutoubia Mosque, dating back to the 12th century and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, sustained damage, though the full extent remains unclear. The earthquake also caused harm to portions of the renowned red walls surrounding the old city, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Local Efforts and Challenges
Local authorities and communities are actively engaged in clearing roads and aiding affected residents, particularly in Al Haouz Province. However, the difficult terrain and the considerable distance between mountain villages present significant challenges in assessing the extent of the damage.
The Moroccan military and emergency services are coordinating aid efforts, with trucks carrying essential supplies, including blankets and lighting equipment, en route to the affected regions. The United Nations has expressed its readiness to assist Morocco in supporting the impacted population during this crisis.
A Grim Reminder
This earthquake stands as Morocco’s deadliest since the 2004 tremor near Al Hoceima in the northern Rif mountains, which claimed the lives of over 600 people. The resilience of the Moroccan people and the support of the international community will be critical in the days ahead as they grapple with the aftermath of this tragic event.
As Morocco mourns the loss of lives and assesses the extensive damage caused by this powerful earthquake, the world watches with concern and offers its support. The road to recovery will undoubtedly be long and arduous, but with concerted efforts and international cooperation, the affected regions can begin to rebuild and heal.