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Five things to know about deadliest quakes in Morocco

The epicenter of the Morocco earthquake was located high in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Marrakech, within the Al Haouz province

Morocco Earthquake devastation

An earthquake of 6.8 magnitude recently struck Morocco, leaving destruction in many villages and cities. As the nation grapples with the aftereffects of the natural calamity, here are five key things you need to know about this tragic event.

Most Affected Areas

The epicenter of the earthquake was located high in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Marrakech, within the Al Haouz province. This region, known for its rugged terrain featuring red-rock mountains, and serene lakes, bore the brunt of the disaster. The tremors were felt throughout Morocco, resulting in injuries and fatalities in various provinces, including Marrakech, Taroudant, and Chichaoua.

Extent of the Impact

The death toll from the earthquake has steadily risen, with 2,900 reported fatalities so far. Al Haouz, home to around 570,000 people according to the 2014 census, alone witnessed 1,604 of these casualties. In some villages like Tafeghaghte, more than half of the population is said to have perished. In addition, several villages constructed from clay and mud brick have been reported to have been reduced to rubble.

Aid and Relief Efforts

Morocco has mobilized ambulances, rescue teams, and soldiers to the affected region to quicken emergency response operations. While the government has not issued a widespread call for international assistance, it has accepted limited foreign aid. Notably, aid from non-governmental organizations and countries such as Spain, Qatar, Britain, and the United Arab Emirates has been welcomed.

Impact on Marrakech's Historic Sites

The earthquake inflicted damage upon Marrakech's historic sites, including cracks and crumbles in the walls surrounding the city's ancient core, a UNESCO World Heritage site constructed in the 12th century. Videos captured structures going to dust from parts of the Koutoubia Mosque, one of the city's iconic landmarks. Marrakech, Morocco's most popular tourist destination, used to be celebrated for its palaces, spice markets, madrasas, and bustling Jemaa El Fna square, filled with food vendors and musicians.

Comparing to Past Quakes

While Friday's earthquake was the strongest in Morocco in over a century, it wasn't the deadliest. Approximately 60 years ago, a magnitude-5.8 quake claimed over 12,000 lives in the city of Agadir. However, there had been no earthquakes stronger than magnitude 6.0 within 310 miles (500 kilometers) of the recent quake in at least a century, according to the US Geological Survey. Morocco's northern regions have experienced more frequent seismic activity, including quakes of magnitude 6.4 in 2004 and magnitude 6.3 in 2016.

While the devastating sight of Morocco may take a lot of time to get back to normalcy, the Moroccan Parliament has convened to establish a government fund for earthquake response at the request of King Mohammed VI. Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch has affirmed the government's commitment to compensating victims and aiding in reconstruction, with Enaam Mayara, the president of Morocco's House of Councilors, estimating that rebuilding some affected areas may take five to six years.