In a tragic turn of events, Morocco was jolted by a potent earthquake late on Friday night, claiming the lives of at least 1,037 individuals and left over 1,200 injured, says Moroccan Interior Ministry. The seismic upheaval left a trail of devastation in its wake, with eyewitnesses capturing harrowing scenes of buildings reduced to rubble and the iconic red walls of historic Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site, bearing the scars of damage.
Videos posted by both locals and tourists portrayed chaotic scenes as people scrambled to safety, fleeing from restaurants with the thumping beats of club music still echoing in the background. The US Geological Survey initially pegged the earthquake at a magnitude of 6.8, striking at precisely 11:11 pm and delivering several seconds of relentless tremors. In contrast, Morocco's National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network registered it at a formidable 7 on the Richter scale. Subsequently, a magnitude 4.9 aftershock rattled the region just 19 minutes later, a reminder of the ongoing seismic activity, AP reported.
Discrepancies in the early measurements are not unusual, though either reading would mark one of the most powerful earthquakes Morocco has witnessed in years. Despite earthquakes being relatively uncommon in North Africa, the region experienced a devastating magnitude 5.8 tremor near Agadir in 1960, which resulted in a tragic loss of thousands of lives.
The epicenter of Friday's earthquake was situated high in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 70 kilometers to the south of Marrakech. Notably, it was also in close proximity to Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak, and Oukaimeden, a popular Moroccan ski resort. The USGS reported the epicenter as being 18 kilometers beneath the Earth's surface, while Morocco's seismic agency estimated it to be at a depth of 8 kilometers.
The reverberations of this seismic event were felt far beyond Morocco's borders, with reports of tremors reaching as far as Portugal and Algeria. The Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria's Civil Defense agency confirmed the earthquake's impact, underscoring the far-reaching consequences of this natural catastrophe.
PM Modi expressed his heartfelt condolences over the earthquake in Morocco, stating, "Extremely pained by the loss of lives due to an earthquake in Morocco. In this tragic hour, my thoughts are with the people of Morocco. Condolences to those who have lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. India is ready to offer all possible assistance to Morocco in this difficult time."