The Morocco earthquake of September 8th, which struck the High Atlas mountain range, approximately 70 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh, has regrettably left a tragic impact in its wake. With a death toll surpassing 2,800 individuals and countless others injured, the magnitude of this disaster has raised pressing questions regarding the factors that rendered it so devastating.
Seismic experts and disaster risk-reduction specialists identify several key factors at play. Firstly, the earthquake’s magnitude, measured at 6.8, though not exceptionally large on a global scale, proved significant for the region. Northern Africa experiences moderate seismic activity due to the ongoing collision between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates.
This geological phenomenon, responsible for the Atlas Mountains’ formation, infrequently yields major earthquakes. Unfortunately, seismic records do not extend far enough to accurately gauge the maximum potential magnitude in this region.
Moreover, the complex network of faults across northern Africa, rather than a localized high-risk area, complicates seismic predictions. However, the most profound contributing factor to the disaster lies in the region’s lack of preparedness, as noted by disaster researcher Ilan Kelman at University College London.
It is emphasized that earthquakes themselves do not claim lives; it is the collapse of infrastructure that proves fatal. Even moderate seismic events can have catastrophic consequences when societies are unprepared.
Despite historical evidence suggesting Morocco’s susceptibility to strong earthquakes, a lack of readiness prevailed. Many structures in the affected area were constructed from materials prone to collapse, such as masonry and aggregate.
The practicality of reinforcing buildings with more resilient materials, like reinforced concrete, faced challenges in this impoverished region.
Morocco’s focus on temperature-related concerns, rather than earthquake resilience, has further hindered preparedness efforts.
Nevertheless, success stories in other regions demonstrate the adaptability of traditional building materials to enhance earthquake resistance. Engaging with local communities, who possess invaluable knowledge of their architectural needs, is paramount when striving to bolster seismic resilience.
Kelman emphasizes the importance of viewing earthquake preparedness within the broader context of sustainable development. Solutions extend beyond simply advising individuals to maintain emergency kits. Addressing societal issues, including poverty and education, is integral to building resilience. Ultimately, disaster risk reduction is intricately entwined with political and developmental considerations.