Atlas Magazine March 2004

Earthquake in Morocco

Yet another earthquake in the Maghreb. After the Boumerdes deadly earthquake in Algeria on the 21st of May, it's Morocco's turn to be hit by a powerful earthquake during the night of February 23rd and 24th.

The epicentre of the quake measuring 6 on the Richter scale, is located in Ait Kamra town (Al Hoceima Province). It is one of the most powerful and deadliest quake to have recently hit Morocco. The casualty toll was exceptionally high with 629 killed and 926 injured while 15 230 were left homeless as 2 539 dwellings collapsed.

There was great damage as well, but due to the physical features of the area, being mountainous, hence, inaccessible, no accurate assessment was made.

The Moroccan territory is a favourable ground for interactions and collusions between African and Euroasian plates. The High, Medium and Rif Atlas Chains regarded to be the most active sismotectonic regions in nortwestern Africa.

Morocco has a history of numerous important earthquakes among which we will list those that occurred on:

  • September 22, 1522, serious destruction in the city of Fez, and damage in Tetouan.
  • May 11, 1624, a large part of the cities of Fez and Meknes badly wrecked.
  • In 1731, the city of Santa Cruz (Agadir) was destroyed
  • February, 11, 1848, great damage to the town of Mellila. .
  • January, 21 and 22, 1909, an earthquake hit and destroyed the Ghomara Douars ( 5 km from Tetouan), and claimed the lives of 100 victims.
  • January 4, 1929, Outat El Haj and Fès were damaged.
  • February 29, 1960, a devastating earthquake wrecked the city of Agadir claiming the lives of 12 000 people and causing 290 million dollars' worth of damage.

Al Hoceima's recent disaster reignites the debate over the insurability of natural risks in the Maghreb.

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