A report on the Moroccan earthquake event, its underlying causes, following reactions, and the ensuing call for collaborative efforts.
An earthquake hit the Moroccan kingdom on 8 September, with a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale, killing at least 2,900 people and injuring more than 5,000, according to the latest official toll.
The quake that struck in the High Atlas Mountains, the epicentre and one of the country’s top tourist destinations, 75 km south-west of the city of Marrakesh, left the nation reeling.
“We were asleep, and I heard a sound and started screaming; the roof was falling”, said Khadija Adid, a Ouirgane resident, in an Al Jazeera video. “I shouted to my husband to rescue the children and my mother. It was terrible. Long, tough hours went by; I felt alone and helpless”.
Not only did the earthquake displaced populations, but it also caused heavy casualties and serious damage to infrastructure, including the Medina UNESCO World Heritage Site, costing the nation’s tourism industry.
“[It] is the strongest seismic event to hit the Kingdom since 1960,” said UNICEF in a 11 September press release.
And it has left citizens struggling to come to terms with their reality.
“The earthquake was a surprise for us, but now that I see it, I am even more scared”, said Hafida, a survivor, in a TRT video. “This is very scary and hard for us.”
Mapping factors that caused the quake
An occurrence of Friday’s magnitude is an uncommon reality, compared to the 1960’s 5.9-magnitude quake that rocked and claimed the lives of 12, 000–15,00 people in coastal western Morocco, according to the United States Geological Survey.
“There have been no recorded earthquakes of M6 or larger within 500 km of this event”, said the USGS. “Earthquakes in the magnitude 6 range are more common in the northern part of Morocco near the Mediterranean Sea, where a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck in February 2004 and a magnitude 6.3 in January 2016”.
The quake that resurfaced 63 years later and is classified as the strongest in over a century resulted from a collision between the African and Eurasian plates, according to the Down to Earth Organisation.
USGS, which has data records dating back to 1900, attributed its cause to reverse faulting.
In a 11 September Al Jazeera story, geologist Paula Marques Figueiredo, whose research is on active tectonics and neotectonics, said reverse tectonic faults lay to the north of the Atlas Mountains and dipped towards them at one point.
She added that “the faults can only hold the stress so much, and once in a while [thousands of years], an earthquake happens as a mechanism to release the [built-up] stress”.
How bad was the damage?
The quake’s occurrence at a shallow depth made it deadlier.
“The Morocco Seismic Agency pegged the depth of the earthquake at 11 km, which is too shallow for such a high-intensity earthquake”, reported the Down to Earth Organisation.
Buildings crumbled down, blocking roads, driving thousands to flee their homes and seek refuge in the streets or makeshift tents, killing and leaving others trapped, and compelling the nation to declare three days of national mourning.
“I live in the streets, and I am begging”, bemoaned Hisham Beji, a Marrakesh resident, while sleeping on the street in a TRT interview. “My sister was married, but her husband died. She has an older daughter; they are sleeping here. And I don’t know what I am going to do.”
Other families have been the worst hit and have been robbed of emotional closure.
“The bodies of my son and his wife are under rubble; there was no one there to recover them”, shared Hada, a resident of Imine Tala Village, in the same video.
Some survivors, like 60-year-old Ehouline Erkouch, who took refuge at a local school, lament the loss of normalcy.
“We suffered, and we are still sad”, she told Reuters. “We have no food and nowhere to sleep. It’s not just the collapsed houses that we are sad about. They can be rebuilt later. But I lost my normal life”.
Children, too, have not been spared from this ordeal.
“Initial reports indicate that approximately 100,000 children have been impacted by the powerful earthquake”, reported the UN, adding that “schools, hospitals, and other medical and educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed by the quakes, further impacting children”.
The tremor of this disaster was not only widespread in Morocco; it swept to neighbouring countries, with weak shaking reported as far as Portugal, Spain, and Algeria, according to the USGS.
The monarch and the world join hands in helping the hard-hit areas.
The catastrophe that befell Morocco prompted the Monarch, foreign leaders, non-governmental organisations, and international aid groups to come together and help the North African nation cope with the aftermath of the quake.
In a 14 September statement, Morocco’s King Mohammed V1 announced the launch of a financial aid programme to rehouse and rebuild 5, 000 homes damaged during the earthquake.
“Direct financial assistance of 140,000 dirhams has been earmarked for totally collapsed dwellings and 80,000 dirhams to cover rehabilitation work on partially collapsed homes”, said the statement, adding that affected households will get “grant emergency aid of 30,000 dirhams”.
This aligns with the wishes shared by Milouda Issaoui in an Al Jazeera video.
“We suffered a lot; we lost everything—our relatives and belongings,” she shared. “I am fine, but I just want the authorities to build a house for my mother. We are a family of 24 people who lived in the same place; that no longer exists”.
Donations have been flowing in locally from non-profit organisations such as The Food Bank of Morocco, which is also seeking aid alongside the Moroccan Centre for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, the National Fund, and the Ataa Foundation, which have also launched a fundraiser.
If you are interested in contributing to this notable cause, here is how you can contact them:
Morocco’s National Food Bank: SUPPORT HERE
The Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship, along with the Ataa Foundation Fundraiser: SUPPORT HERE
Séisme : SOS Villages d’Enfants Maroc met en place un plan d’urgence:
A WEEK OF EVENTS
8 September 2023
An earthquake rocked Morocco with a magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale.
12 September 2023
In the tiny village of Algou, high in the Atlas Mountains, screams came from under the rubble in the terrifying moments after the earthquake.
9 September 2023
The number of people who have died in Morocco following the earthquake hit 1,037, state television quotes the interior ministry as saying.
13 September 2023
Some Moroccan villagers who lost everything in last week’s earthquake were fending for themselves in the ruins of their homes on Wednesday, with roads still blocked by landslides and a dearth of essential supplies such as tents.
10 September 2023
The death toll from a powerful earthquake in Morocco has soared to more than 2,000, with a similar number of injured.
14 September 2023
Lincolnshire firefighters supporting a UK rescue effort to find survivors of the earthquake in Morocco have said they will stay there as long as needed.
11 September 2023
Morocco’s education ministry has temporarily suspended learning for students in the regions most impacted by the earthquake.
15 September 2023
The Moroccan authorities have announced plans to fund the rebuilding of about 50,000 homes damaged by last week’s earthquake.