Morocco earthquake has claimed the lives of hundreds of residents and caused extensive damage across a wide area. What led to such devastating consequences?
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According to information provided by the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior, broadcast on the government-owned Al Aoula television channel, the death toll from this earthquake has risen to 1,037 people, with 672 individuals reported injured, and an additional 205 in critical condition. Most of the casualties are concentrated in Marrakesh, the former capital of Morocco, and in five provinces near the epicenter. The number of casualties is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
Several factors have contributed to the high number of casualties and damage caused by this earthquake:
1. Shallow Earthquake:
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the earthquake occurred at 23:11 local time (05:11 WIB) with a magnitude of 6.8, followed by a magnitude 4.9 aftershock 19 minutes later. The epicenter was located in the city of Ighil, approximately 70 km southwest of Marrakesh. USGS indicated that the earthquake’s center was approximately 18.5 km below the Earth’s surface, while Moroccan seismic authorities estimated a depth of 11 km. Regardless, this earthquake is considered relatively shallow.
According to experts, shallow earthquakes like this one are typically more dangerous as they release more energy when they reach the surface compared to earthquakes occurring deep underground.
2. Rare Earthquake:
Earthquakes are infrequent in North Africa, with relatively low seismic activity along the northern edge of the African continent. Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Department of Seismic Monitoring and Warning at the National Institute of Geophysics, noted that this earthquake is the strongest ever recorded in the mountainous region. Unlike areas prone to earthquakes, Morocco was not prepared to handle such a disaster.
3. Unprepared Buildings:
Despite experiencing a devastating earthquake in 1960 that claimed thousands of lives and led to changes in building construction regulations, many structures in Morocco, especially in rural areas and historic cities, were not constructed to withstand such powerful tremors. In this recent earthquake, numerous houses in the densely populated old city of Marrakesh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, collapsed. Video footage showed significant cracks in the medieval city walls and sections that crumbled. Rescue teams are currently working to locate individuals trapped beneath the debris. Conditions in villages near the epicenter are likely even worse.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicenter, reported that most houses in the village were damaged. Villages like Asni are situated in the Atlas Mountains with challenging access for authorities and rescue teams.
4. Fault Slip:
The USGS attributes this recent earthquake to the “oblique-reverse faulting on a shallow depth in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco.” Faults are fractures or fracture zones between two rock plates that allow the Earth’s plates to move relative to each other, resulting in earthquakes. During an earthquake, rocks on one side of the fault suddenly slip against the other side.
Scientists use the fault’s surface angle (known as dip) and slip direction along the fault to classify faults. Faults that move parallel to the dip plane are known as dip-slip faults, while faults that move horizontally are called strike-slip faults.