Moroccan quake caused by collision of African-Eurasian plates

Experts said last week's devastating earthquake that struck Morocco was a rare occurrence.
Shubhangi Dua
Emergency works conducting evacuation at Morocco earthquake site
Emergency works conducting evacuation at Morocco earthquake site

Khaled Nasraoui/picture alliance via Getty Images 

The biggest earthquake since 1900 struck central Morocco with a magnitude of 6.8 last Friday (September 8) at 23:11 local time.

Now rescue teams are racing to find survivors in the rubble as the death toll rises to 2,681, the Independent reported. 

Over 2,000 people have been killed in the disaster that struck the villages in the High Atlas Mountains. Experts said that the country will continue to experience aftershocks for weeks or months. 

Aftershocks to come

Remy Mossu, the director of the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre, told Sky News that more than 25 aftershocks have already hit the country since the Friday quake. “There will be aftershocks. It is not probably, it is a certainty.”

Dr. Brian Baptie, Head of Seismology at the British Geological Survey, said that the earthquake occurred near the town of Adassil in the Marrakesh-Safi region of Morocco and approximately 47 miles (75 km) from the city of Marrakech. The focus was relatively shallow, and nearby towns are likely to have experienced very strong or severe shaking.

“Earthquakes are relatively uncommon in this region of Morocco, with most seismic activity to the northeast, closer to the plate boundary between Africa and Europe. However, earthquakes have occurred nearby in the past and earthquakes remain a significant hazard in this region of Morocco,” he added.

This earthquake has been considered uncommon by other experts, too. For instance, Dr. Carmen Solana, a volcanologist from the University of Portsmouth, told the Science Media Centre:

“Earthquakes in Morocco are not unusual, but this one is larger and close to the large city of Marrakesh. As with many other cities in the region, old buildings would not have any anti-seismic design, hence are very dangerous.”

Years to repair

She further emphasized that the mountains where the earthquake occurred were a result of the African and European plates crashing into each other. It was this force that produced the earthquake.

Dr. Baptie refers to the last major earthquake that hit Morocco in 2004 with a magnitude of 6.3 – Al Hoceima, which killed over 600 people. He stated:

“Earthquakes have occurred nearby in the past and earthquakes remain a significant hazard in this region of Morocco. In 1960 a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck the city of Agadir in Morocco causing between 12,000 and 15,000 deaths, making it the deadliest earthquake in Moroccan history."

The BBC says that even smaller tremors risk bringing down already damaged buildings with aftershocks yet to come. Since the earthquake struck at night, the death toll higher than previous quakes in the country as people are more likely to be indoors.