Where in Morocco did the 6.8 magnitude earthquake strike?

The earthquake’s epicentre was the Ighil area, a mountainous rural commune home to small farming villages in the al-Haouz province near the ski resort of Oukaimeden in the Atlas Mountains.

Lanchen Haddad, a Moroccan senator and former minister, told Al Jazeera the area was “not known for being active in terms of earthquakes”.The epicentre, he said, was near some “very difficult terrain” and is home to the Tizi-n-Test, a small pass in the High Atlas Mountains that can be crossed by a road connecting Marrakesh and the southwestern city of Taroudant.

“There’s not been very many earthquakes in that part of Morocco, most occur in the area much farther north on the Mediterranean coast near the tectonic plate,” Chris Elders, a structural geologist from Australia’s Curtin University, told Al Jazeera.

“The Atlas Mountains are a zone of weakness within Morocco with a very long geological history. Stresses build up in those areas. Africa is moving north towards Europe, and that is what caused the earthquake to occur in this particular area.”Death toll to climb’
The epicentre was 75km (44 miles) from Marrakesh, Morocco’s fourth largest city. The city’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is reported to have been particularly affected with images emerging of collapsed buildings.

The worst-hit area is around the epicentre in al-Haouz province, southeast of Marrakesh, but the Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudant provinces have also been badly hit.“The problem is that where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough to cope with strong ground shaking, so many collapse resulting in high casualties,” said Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London.

“I would expect the final death toll to climb into the thousands once more is known. As with any big quake, aftershocks are likely, which will lead to further casualties and hinder search and rescue.”

National and provincial response
The earthquake hit after 11pm local time (22:00 GMT) on Friday evening, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which measured its magnitude at 6.8 and said it was at a relatively shallow depth of 18.5km (11.5 miles).

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