A strong and shallow earthquake registered by the USGS as M6.8 hit Morocco’s High Atlas mountains at 22:11 UTC on Friday, September 8, 2023. The quake hit at 23:11 local time at a depth of 18.6 km (11.5 miles). EMSC is reporting M6.9 at a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles).
- Since 1900, there have been no earthquakes M6 and larger within 500 km (311 miles) of this earthquake, and only 9 M5 and larger earthquakes.
The epicenter was located 56.2 km (34.9 miles) W of Oukaïmedene (population 839 296), 71.8 km (44.6 miles) SW of Marrakesh (population 839 296), 73.7 km (45.8 miles) W of Setti Fatma (population 22 283), and 82.4 km (51.2 miles) NNE of Taroudant (population 71 133), Morocco.
49 000 people are estimated to have felt severe shaking, 403 000 very strong, 2 800 000 strong, 4 369 000 moderate, and 11 163 000 light.
The USGS issued an Orange alert for shaking-related fatalities and a Red alert for economic losses. Extensive damage is probable and the disaster is likely widespread. Estimated economic losses are 0-2% GDP of Morocco. Past events with this alert level have required a national or international level response.
Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking, though some resistant structures exist. The predominant vulnerable building types are adobe block and unreinforced brick with mud construction.
According to the preliminary death toll released by Morocco’s Interior Ministry on Saturday, September 9, at least 296 people were killed and 153 injured. Most of the deaths were in mountainous areas close to the epicenter. State-run TV Al Aoula reported rescue teams were having difficulty reaching the worst affected areas after roads were damaged.
Sunday, September 10
At least 2 012 people were killed and 1 404 others are in critical condition.
Morocco will observe three days of mourning following the quake, the Royal Palace said. Flags will be flown at half-staff on all public buildings.
Rescue operations are still in progress.
The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces warned residents to pay close attention to follow-up tremors.
Wednesday, September 12
The death toll has risen to nearly 2 900 people (mostly in Al Haouz Province) while 2 562 others were injured.
At least 100 000 children were affected and thousands of homes were destroyed, resulting in a large number of displaced people.
In addition, schools, hospitals and other medical and educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed across the affected area, DG ECHO reports.
On Saturday, Al-Aoula showcased numerous buildings that had crumbled near the epicenter. They reported that thousands evacuated their residences following warnings from the country’s National Institute of Geophysics about potential aftershocks.
In the mountain village of Asni, close to the epicenter, a majority of homes sustained damage, local resident Montasir Itri told Reuters.
“Neighbours are trapped under debris, and efforts are in full swing to rescue them with the limited resources in the village,” he conveyed.
The quake’s effects were felt even further west in Taroudant. A local mentioned he evacuated his dwelling due to aftershocks after the primary seismic activity, as reported by Reuters.
Hamid Afkar, a teacher, recounted to Reuters, “The earth shook for about 20 seconds. Doors opened and shut by themselves as I rushed downstairs from the second floor.”
According to the USGS, the quake occurred due to oblique-reverse faulting at shallow depth within the Moroccan High Atlas Mountain range. Focal mechanism solutions for the event indicate rupture occurred on a steeply dipping oblique-reverse fault striking to the northwest or a shallow dipping oblique-reverse fault striking to the east. The High Atlas Mountains contain a variety of mapped strike-slip and thrust faults, trending to the east-west and northeast-southwest. This earthquake occurred within the Africa Plate, approximately 550 km (342 miles) south of the plate boundary between the Africa and Eurasia plates. At the location of this earthquake, the African plate moves approximately 24 mm/year WSW relative to the Eurasia plate.
While commonly plotted as points on maps, earthquakes of this size are more appropriately described as slip over a larger fault area. Reverse faulting events of the size of the September 8, 2023, Morocco earthquake are typically about 30 km (18 miles) by 20 km (12,4 miles) (length x width).
Earthquakes of this size in the region are uncommon but not unexpected. Since 1900, there have been no earthquakes M6 and larger within 500 km (311 miles) of this earthquake, and only 9 M5 and larger earthquakes. Most of these events have occurred east of the September 8, 2023, earthquake.
Estimated population exposure to earthquake shaking
Selected cities exposed
1 M 6.8 – 56 km W of Oukaïmedene, Morocco – USGS
2 M6.9 earthquake – Morocco – September 8, 2023 – EMSC
3 Powerful earthquake strikes Morocco, killing 300 and damaging historic Marrakech – CNN – September 9, 2023
4 Morocco earthquake kills more than 2,000 and damages historic Marrakech – CNN – September 10, 2023
Featured image credit: TW/SAM, Google
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