The earthquake in Morocco last night was heavy and occurred at a depth of 18 kilometers. “That is shallow and that means a major effect on the Earth’s surface,” explains KNMI seismologist Läslo Evers. That means a lot of damage and possibly a large number of victims.
Last night’s earthquake had a magnitude of 6.8, the earthquake expert says. “This is really a heavy earthquake, you should certainly not underestimate it,” said Evers. “I associate that with many victims, even when I see the few images of collapsed houses and rubble on the street.”
More than 800 fatalities have been counted so far, but it is widely believed that the death toll will rise. There has not yet been any communication with large parts of the affected area.
Major earthquakes do not occur often in this region, but they do occur further north. Between Spain and Morocco, under the Mediterranean Sea, there is a border of two large tectonic plates.
The epicenter was last night between the cities of Marrakesh and Agadir, more than 500 kilometers from the plate boundary. “That area is seismically active, but not as active as the north.”
In 1960 there was a strong earthquake measuring 5.8 near Agadir, a little further south, Evers recalls. At least 12,000 people were killed and the port city of Agadir was largely destroyed.
Evers: “That was a reason to tackle buildings and infrastructure to ensure that they can better withstand these types of earthquakes.”
Until now, this earthquake had one large shock and then a number of smaller aftershocks, says the KNMI seismologist. This is different from the major earthquake in Turkey and Syria in February. “After the first shock, a number of large shocks occurred on other fractures. I don’t see that here yet.”
According to Evers, it is impossible to predict whether there will be major earthquakes here in addition to smaller aftershocks. “It is impossible to say in advance whether this earthquake has caused tension on another part of the fault line, which will also lead to a larger earthquake.”
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