Powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake rattles Morocco, north Africa

In World


The earthquake struck late Friday evening, with the epicentre 75 kilometres west of Marrekesh, a major economic centre.

A powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake has shocked Morocco, sending pulses from the city of Rabat in the north to Sidi Ifni in the south and beyond.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the epicentre of the quake occurred near the ski resort of Oukaïmedene in the Atlas Mountains, some 75 kilometres (44 miles) from Marrakesh, the fourth largest city in the country.

The earthquake took place shortly after 11pm local time (22:00 GMT) on Friday evening, according to the USGS.

No immediate reports of casualties or widespread devastation were available. But videos and images shared on social media showed clouds of dust and piles of rubble, as walls buckled under the force of the quake.

Other posts depicted shocked residents running for safety, out of local buildings and onto the street.

One Marrakesh resident, Brahim Himmi, told the Reuters news agency that he spotted ambulances leaving the city’s historic old town. He also said that building facades had been damaged as the earth shook.

“There’s not too much damage, more panic. We heard screams at the time of the tremor,” a resident of Essaouira told the news agency AFP. “People are in the squares, in the cafes, preferring to sleep outside.”

While earthquakes in the region are “uncommon but not unexpected”, one of this magnitude has not been seen in the region in over 120 years.

“Since 1900, there have been no earthquakes M6 [magnitude 6] or larger within 500 km of this earthquake, and only 9 M5 [magnitude 5] and larger,” the USGS said on its website.

Most of those previous earthquakes occurred further to the east as well, the agency added.

Friday evening’s earthquake was a relatively shallow one, occurring at a depth of 18.5 km (11.5 miles). The USGS explained that “oblique-reverse faulting” in the Atlas Mountains were the cause of the quake.

The last major earthquake to strike Morocco occurred in 2004, killing over 600 people. That quake, dubbed the Al Hoceima earthquake, was positioned on an active plate boundary on the country’s northernmost coast, bordering the western Mediterranean Sea. It clocked in at a magnitude of 6.3.

An even larger quake struck neighbouring Algeria in 1980. Known as the El Asnam earthquake, the 7.3-magnitude event was the strongest seismic activity the region had seen in centuries. Also originating in the Atlas Mountain range, it levelled houses, leaving 300,000 people on the street and over 2,600 people dead.

This is a developping news story. More details to follow.

Read More: Powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake rattles Morocco, north Africa

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