Devastating M6.8 Earthquake Strikes Morocco

Morocco experienced a catastrophic earthquake of historic proportions on Friday, September 8, 2023, resulting in a devastating loss of life, widespread structural damage, and the displacement of countless residents.

The quake struck at 23:11 local time, followed by a M4.9 aftershock just 19 minutes later. The devastating impact has been felt in Marrakesh and several areas to the south, including the provinces and municipalities of al-Haouz, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua, and Taroudant1.

The earthquake's epicenter, situated in a remote region of the High Atlas Mountains, is concerning as simple buildings in nearby mountain villages may not have withstood the quake's force. Due to the area's remoteness, assessing the full extent of casualties may take some time.

 

Damage

Rescue operations are underway across Morocco as teams tirelessly search for survivors in the aftermath of Friday's powerful earthquake. Tragically, the death toll has already surpassed 2,100 people, and there are fears that this number will continue to climb. More than 2,421 people are suffering injuries, including many in critical condition2.

The most severe destruction has been concentrated in remote mountainous regions, where access remains challenging. Heartbreaking reports describe entire villages grappling with damage while rescue teams face formidable obstacles in recovering bodies buried beneath the debris.

In Marrakech, the nearest major city, many residents have been forced to spend a second night sleeping on the streets because they fear returning to their unstable homes. The earthquake has also taken its toll on the city's historical landmarks, affecting its status as a popular tourist destination.

In response to this national tragedy, Morocco's King Mohammed VI has declared three days of mourning and has instructed mosques nationwide to conduct funeral prayers on Sunday.

Morocco experienced a catastrophic earthquake of historic proportions.
Picture 1: Damage of devastating M6.8 Morocco earthquake.

Tectonic Plates in Morocco Region

The Earth's outer layer comprises numerous tectonic plates, significant portions of the planet's crust, engaged in continuous motion relative to each other. This dynamic movement plays a pivotal role in shaping various geological phenomena, including earthquakes, volcanoes, and the creation of mountain ranges and ocean basins.

Morocco experiences significant tectonic activity, primarily characterized by the convergence of the Eurasian and Nubian (African) Plates. The Eurasian Plate's forceful interaction with the Nubian Plate has been instrumental in shaping the Atlas Mountains, which extend across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. These majestic mountains serve as the focal point for the recent earthquake, with its epicenter located within this geological region3.

Presently, the interaction between these plates results in the compression and subsequent reduction in the length of the Atlas Mountains, elucidating the high level of seismic activity in the region. This conclusion is supported by GPS measurements, which reveal an annual convergence of approximately 1 millimeter between these tectonic plates3.

 

Past Earthquakes in Morocco

Morocco's seismic activity is characterized by moderate and large earthquakes, which can significantly impact the local population and infrastructure. Three of the largest earthquakes in Morocco in the last century, besides the M6.8 from September 8, 2023, are:

  1. Al Hoceima Earthquake (2004) occurred on February 24, 2004, in the Al Hoceima region in northern Morocco. It had a magnitude of 6.3 and caused significant damage in the surrounding areas, including Al Hoceima and Nador. The earthquake resulted in several fatalities and widespread destruction.
  2. The Middle Atlas Earthquake (1930) had an estimated magnitude of 6.3 and occurred in the Middle Atlas region of Morocco on May 22, 1930. It caused considerable damage to buildings and infrastructure in the affected areas.
  3. Agadir Earthquake (1960) struck on February 29, 1960, with a magnitude of 5.7 on the Richter scale and resulted in the near-total destruction of the city of Agadir. The earthquake claimed the lives of thousands of people, and many more were injured or left homeless4.

These are some notable earthquakes in Morocco's history, but the region experiences smaller earthquakes more frequently due to ongoing tectonic activity. It's essential for Morocco to have earthquake preparedness and mitigation measures in place to minimize the impact of future seismic events on its population and infrastructure.

Quantectum’s Report and Forecast

At Quantectum, we’re closely monitoring the Moroccan region and closely looking at the seismic situation. We’ve also prepared an earthquake report available here.

 

Sources:
1) Aljazeera. 2023. Where in Morocco did the 6.8 magnitude earthquake strike? Accessed on 11-Sep-2023. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/9/where-in-morocco-did-the-earthquake-strike
2) BBC. 2023. Enormous devastation was found in remote regions after the Morocco quake. Accessed on 11-Sep-2023. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-africa-66765971
3) The Conversation. 2023. Morocco’s earthquake wasn’t unexpected – building codes must plan for them. Accessed on 11-Sep-2023. Available at: https://theconversation.com/moroccos-earthquake-wasnt-unexpected-building-codes-must-plan-for-them-213220#:~:text=The%20tectonic%20activity%20in%20Morocco,through%20Morocco%2C%20Algeria%20and%20Tunisia
4) Aljazeera. 2023. Powerful earthquakes that have hit Morocco. Accessed on 11-Sep-2023. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/11/powerful-earthquakes-that-have-hit-morocco

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