African plate collided with Eurasian plate, causing Morocco earthquake: Experts

2023-09-11 22:06:32
African plate collided with Eurasian plate, causing Morocco earthquake: Experts

Rescuers are searching through rubble and trying to reach isolated communities after a devastating earthquake struck Morocco, killing thousands and leaving more injured or unaccounted for.

The quake is the strongest to hit the North African nation’s center in more than a century, and its epicenter was not far from popular tourist and economic hub Marrakech.

At least 2,681 people have been killed in the disaster and 2,501 have been injured, state media said on Monday.

Moroccan rescue workers, backed by foreign teams, continued Monday in a race against time to find survivors and provide assistance to hundreds of homeless people whose homes were razed to the ground.

What caused the earthquake?

Earthquakes are commonly caused along the seam where two tectonic plates move against each other, and in Morocco, earthquakes mostly happen where the Africa and Eurasia plates meet.

But that boundary is to the north, near Gibraltar, so tremors are usually closer to Tangiers than Marrakesh. Yet this one was in al-Haouz province in the High Atlas Mountains, 75km (47 miles) southwest of Marrakesh, the country’s fourth-largest city.

So far, the explanation is that the quake happened when a reverse fault – where the edge of the rock on one side of a fault slips under the other – occurred between the Morocco and Iberia microplates, which are both part of the larger African plate.

Paula Marques Figueiredo, a geologist who researches active tectonics and neotectonics, said that reverse tectonic faults lay to the north of the Atlas Mountains and dipped towards them at one point.

During the earthquake, the edge that lies towards the mountains slid over the other, pushing the mountainside up, a knock-on consequence of built-up tension between the African and Eurasia plates over time.


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