A man cries as he sits on the rubble of a house in the village of Tikht, near Adassil, on Sept. 10, 2023, two days after the devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake. Photo by cbsnews.com.

Morocco’s Complex Tectonics Heighten Earthquake Risks; UN Readies Aid Efforts


NEW YORK: The recent catastrophic earthquake in Morocco has brought to light the intricate tectonic dynamics in the region, amplifying the risk of seismic activity. Striking on Friday, September 8th at 11 p.m., a formidable 6.8 magnitude earthquake shook the Al Haouz province in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, leaving a devastating toll of thousands dead and many more injured.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that, as of the latest update, approximately 2,500 lives have been lost, with another 2,500 individuals sustaining injuries. The hardest-hit areas were the Al-Haouz and Taroudant provinces.

In response to this tragedy, the Moroccan authorities declared three days of national mourning, and King Mohammed VI swiftly ordered the government to provide rapid assistance, focusing on shelter and rebuilding efforts, with special attention to orphans and the vulnerable.

Turkey, still reeling from its own recent earthquake, was among the first to extend a helping hand to Morocco. Despite facing their own crisis, Turkey pledged support by dispatching 265 aid workers and 1,000 tents to assist Morocco in their time of need.

Emergency workers carry a body from the rubble in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake, in Amizmiz, Morocco, Sept, 10, 2023. Photo by cbsnews,com.

UN’s Pledge to Assist Morocco

The United Nations expressed profound sorrow over the loss of lives in Morocco and extended its condolences to the affected families. The Secretary-General’s office affirmed its commitment to aiding Morocco in their endeavors to assist the affected population.

Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, addressed the media during a noon briefing on September 11, 2023, at the UN headquarters. He reiterated the Secretary-General’s condolences and solidarity with Morocco. Mr. Haq emphasized the UN’s readiness to provide assistance in assessment, coordination, and response efforts.

United Nations Headquarters-New York. File Phot.

Mr. Haq acknowledged the challenges posed by the region’s geography and road blockages, making search-and-rescue operations arduous. Many residents, fearing aftershocks, sought refuge outdoors. Moroccan authorities have mobilized response efforts, including deploying Civil Protection units to bolster essential resources like blood bank supplies, water, food, tents, and blankets to affected areas.

The Moroccan Red Crescent is actively engaged in providing crucial first aid, psychosocial support, and facilitating the transportation of injured individuals to hospitals.

The Earth’s Slow Dance: Complex Tectonics in Morocco

Scientists underscore the infrequency but expected nature of earthquakes in northern Africa, particularly Morocco. Positioned at the convergence of the African and Eurasian plates, Morocco experiences a gradual tectonic collision, resulting in a mere 4 to 6 millimeters of movement annually. This slow process accumulates stress over time, occasionally leading to powerful earthquakes like the recent one.

However, the intricacies of this tectonic activity remain poorly understood. Unlike regions with defined fault lines, Morocco’s collision deforms the landscape across interconnected zones, making it challenging to identify the most earthquake-prone areas. Additionally, factors deep underground may influence surface stresses, contributing to the complexity.

A view shows a destroyed house in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Talat N’yaaqoub, Morocco, Sept. 11, 2023. Photo by cbsnews.com.

In the aftermath of the tragic event, scientists are working to pinpoint the precise fault responsible, a task made challenging by the absence of historical earthquake data. Even the fault that caused Morocco’s deadliest recent earthquake in 1960 remains largely unknown.

Furthermore, determining an earthquake’s depth is crucial for assessing its impact. The shallower the earthquake, the more intense the surface shaking. Deeper quakes, while less intense, can be felt over a broader area.

The direction of the earthquake’s fracture also plays a critical role in surface impact, focusing seismic energy in specific areas. In the case of the Moroccan earthquake, the pattern of aftershocks indicates a fracture towards the northeast, intensifying shaking in Marrakesh.

UN’s Commitment to Alleviate Suffering

In the face of this devastating earthquake, the United Nations stands prepared to support the Moroccan government in providing essential aid and assistance to those affected. The international community remains vigilant, underscoring the importance of collective efforts in mitigating the aftermath of natural disasters.

Mohamed Sebbagh, 66, stands in front of his destroyed house in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake, in Amizmiz, Morocco, Sept. 10, 2023.Photo by cbsnews.com.

In a broader context, the Secretary-General’s recent activities have included participation in the G-20 meeting in New Delhi, addressing global leaders on climate change, development, and technology. Additionally, the Secretary-General is scheduled to attend the G77+China summit in Cuba, engaging with leaders on pressing international issues.

The United Kingdom’s commitment of $2 billion to the Green Climate Fund replenishment has been appreciated by the Secretary-General, urging other G7 members and donors to follow suit in the fight against climate change.

As the briefing concluded, updates on various UN activities were provided, including efforts in peacekeeping, humanitarian responses in Lebanon and Syria, and the situation in Sudan and Chad. New Resident Coordinators for Jamaica and Saudi Arabia were also introduced.

In the wake of this devastating earthquake, the UN’s steadfast commitment to aiding Morocco underscores the imperative of global solidarity in times of crisis. Understanding the intricate tectonic dynamics of Morocco is crucial in preparing for and mitigating future seismic events.

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