The powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco Friday night left a trail of disaster in its wake.
According to updates from the Moroccan Interior Ministry, nearly 820 people died while 672 were injured in what is possibly one of the worst disasters to hit a country that experiences frequent earthquakes in its northern region due to its position between the African and Eurasian plates.
However, several buildings were destroyed during the earthquake — especially in Marrakesh, a historic city and a major tourist hub located close to the epicentre of the tremors.
Surrounded by a vast palm grove, the city of Marrakech is called the “red city” because of its buildings and ramparts made of beaten clay.
According to the UNESCO website, the city dates back to 1070–72 and was founded by the Almoravids, a historic Muslim empire.
“Marrakesh remained a political, economic and cultural centre for a long period. Its influence was felt throughout the western Muslim world, from North Africa to Andalusia,” the website added.
Some of the impressive monuments dating from that period located in the city include the Koutoubiya Mosque, the Kasbah, the battlements, monumental doors, gardens, etc.
“Later architectural jewels include the Bandiâ Palace, the Ben Youssef Madrasa, the Saadian Tombs, several great residences and Place Jamaâ El Fna, a veritable open-air theatre,” UNESCO stated.
However, owing to their history, the structures were “highly vulnerable” to damage. The US Geological Survey (USGS) said that “the population in this region lives in structures that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking.”
The USGS added: “The epicenter of the earthquake was at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5 km (11.5 miles) and occurred about 72 km (44 miles) southwest of Marrakesh and 56 km west of the Atlas Mountain town of Oukaimeden at just after 11pm local time (2200 GMT).”
The quake damaged buildings in Marrakech, where residents spent the night in the open, afraid to go home.
It must be noted that the historic city is due to host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in early October.