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Devastating 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Morocco, Leaving Trail of Death and Destruction

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On September 9, 2023, Morocco was struck by a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8, the largest tremor to hit the country in over 120 years.[0] The earthquake, which occurred late at night, has resulted in widespread death and destruction, with entire communities in Northern Africa being destroyed. Officials have reported that over 1,000 people have already lost their lives, and they expect the death toll to rise as rescuers reach remote and afflicted areas.[1]

This powerful earthquake has left a trail of devastation in its wake. The Interior Ministry has confirmed that over 820 people have died, with more than 200 in critical condition.[2] As relief efforts continue, there are fears that the death toll will continue to rise. The earthquake has caused widespread structural damage, destroying historic buildings and forcing many people to flee their homes.

The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.8 on the moment magnitude scale (MMS) and its epicenter was in the Atlas Mountains, approximately 70 kilometers (40 miles) from Marrakech. The impact of the earthquake was felt in neighboring Algeria and as far north as Portugal.[2] Moroccan media has described this earthquake as the most powerful to have ever hit the country.

The historic city of Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site, suffered significant damage.[2] Residents reported that some buildings collapsed in the old city, including the renowned Koutoubia Mosque, which was constructed in the 12th century.[3] The mosque's minaret, known as the “roof of Marrakech,” was also damaged, along with parts of the iconic red walls surrounding the old city.[2]

The earthquake struck at around 11:11 p.m. local time, with its epicenter located in the High Atlas mountain range, approximately 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) southwest of Marrakech. The affected area is home to approximately 1.8 million people and is also the region where CARE, an organization that primarily works in Morocco, is based.[4]

Earthquakes are a natural phenomenon that occur due to the movement and collision of tectonic plates. Morocco is located in an area prone to seismic activity, as it lies along the boundary of two tectonic plates. When these plates collide or slide against each other, earthquakes can occur. The specific surfaces where the plates meet are called faults, and when the pressure building up along these faults becomes too great, it can result in an earthquake.

Scientists have a good understanding of where earthquakes are likely to occur based on historical records and measurements of geological activity.[1] However, predicting exactly when an earthquake will strike remains challenging.[1] In the case of Morocco, earthquakes of this magnitude are uncommon but not unexpected.[5] Since 1900, there have been nine earthquakes with a magnitude of 5 or higher in the region, but this recent earthquake is the most powerful to have occurred in over a century.[5]

The aftermath of the earthquake has presented significant challenges for rescue and relief efforts. Blocked roads and the mountainous terrain have hindered the ability of ambulances and rescue teams to reach affected areas.[6] The risk of landslides and large distances have further complicated the situation.[7] Despite these obstacles, rescue operations and damage assessments are ongoing.

As the precise scale of the earthquake continues to emerge, the death toll is expected to rise. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has reported the magnitude of the earthquake as 6.8, with a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 kilometers (11.5 miles).[8] This shallow earthquake, occurring just 11 miles beneath the surface, can have a more significant impact and cause more destruction.

The global community is closely monitoring the situation in Morocco and offering support to aid in rescue and relief efforts. The earthquake has highlighted the importance of preparedness and response strategies in areas prone to seismic activity. While earthquakes are a natural occurrence, efforts must be made to mitigate their impact and protect vulnerable communities.

As the people of Morocco grapple with the aftermath of this devastating earthquake, the international community stands in solidarity and offers assistance to help the country recover and rebuild. It is a reminder of the unpredictable nature of natural disasters and the importance of unity in times of crisis.

0. “Officials warn of Utah’s earthquake risk in the wake of Morocco’s devastation” ABC4.com, 10 Sep. 2023, https://www.abc4.com/news/local-news/officials-utahs-earthquake-risk-moroccos-devastation/

1. “Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria: What we know — and don’t know — about earthquakes” Vox.com, 9 Sep. 2023, https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/9/21/16339522/earthquakes-morocco-turkey-syria-explained-science

2. “Morocco's Atlas Mountains are tectonic hotspot” DW (English), 9 Sep. 2023, https://www.dw.com/en/earthquakes-come-often-in-moroccos-atlas-mountains/a-66766929

3. “Morocco’s powerful earthquake: What we know so far” Al Jazeera English, 9 Sep. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/9/moroccos-powerful-earthquake-what-we-know-so-far

4. “Morocco earthquake: CARE's latest updates & how to help” CARE Stories, 9 Sep. 2023, https://www.care.org/news-and-stories/news/morocco-earthquake-cares-latest-updates-how-to-help/

5. “What we know about the Morocco earthquake” CNN, 9 Sep. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/09/09/africa/morocco-earthquake-what-we-know-intl/index.html

6. “How to help victims of Morocco’s deadly earthquake” CNN, 10 Sep. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/09/09/world/how-to-help-morocco-earthquake-iyw/index.html

7. “Islamic Relief launches £10 million appeal to help Morocco earthquake survivors” Islamic Relief Worldwide, 9 Sep. 2023, https://islamic-relief.org/news/powerful-earthquake-kills-hundreds-in-moroccos-high-atlas-region

8. “Pictures: Aftermath of Morocco earthquake : The Picture Show” NPR, 9 Sep. 2023, https://www.npr.org/sections/pictureshow/2023/09/09/1198656355/photos-see-aftermath-of-earthquake-in-morocco

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