In these early days of September, two major disasters hit North Africa, both terrifying and tremendous. In Morocco, the devastating earthquake that mainly hit the city of Marrakech and hundreds of small villages around it. In Libya, the flood that hit the city of Derna. But let us look at both of them specifically.
On the night of 8-9 September 2023, a strong earthquake tremor occurred at 10.45pm. The National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology reported a magnitude of 6.8, at a depth of 10 kilometres, with an epicentre not far from Marrakech. Telephone lines are down and the power has gone out in most parts of the city. These are the first reports that came in shortly after the earthquake. It was felt throughout Morocco and also on the coast of Spain and in the Canary Islands.
It was later rectified by the Moroccan National Institute of Geophysics that the earthquake occurred at 11.11pm with a magnitude of 7.00. The epicentre was located in the municipality of Ighil, in the province of Al Azouz, south of Marrakech. The death toll of the earthquake began to arrive after only a few hours, and it was immediately apparent that there would be many dead and injured, and that the number that was gradually being updated was destined to rise dramatically. The city was affected, but much more so were the countless small villages, especially south of the city, where help was slow to arrive due to landslides and the condition of the roads, which in many cases were washed away.
There are villages that have been completely destroyed; the earthquake has crumbled most of the fragile buildings made of stone and mud. The inhabitants slept in the open for days trying to salvage all they could from the ruins of their homes. In many places, basic necessities are in short supply.
In the meantime, there are countless aftershocks, some of a still high magnitude, such as the one of 14 September, recorded in the Atlas Mountains south of Marrakech, with a magnitude of 4.8, which was felt as far as the city, where people, thousands of them, are still sleeping in the streets for fear of other earthquakes. To date, almost 3,000 people have died and more than 6,000 have been injured, some very seriously. But in many places people are still digging for survivors, even though hopes are now almost nil, and there are still many missing.
Just before the earthquake, strange lights were seen in the sky, as can be seen from several videos that users posted on TikTok and other platforms. This phenomenon is known to researchers, but no one knows the exact cause. However, there are several theories about the origins of the phenomenon, although it is one of those mysteries that persist but for which there is still no scientific explanation.
They are called telluric lights, and they differ considerably. They have been observed both high and low in the sky, flashing only briefly, like a flash, or hanging for minutes; they also differ in colour. And always before an earthquake.
Let us now turn to the flood that hit Libya. On the weekend of 9-10 September 2023, storm Daniel hit Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, causing 27 deaths, and then hit Cyrenaica on Sunday evening. However, nobody expected that extreme phenomenon due to the amount of water that fell. We are talking about rainfall of between 50 and 250 cubic millimetres, accompanied by winds blowing at 180 kilometres per hour. A type of event that is unfortunately becoming increasingly frequent due to global warming. An event that no one in the area had ever seen, at least until now. The epicentre of the disaster was the city of Derna, a city of around one hundred thousand inhabitants, overlooking the Mediterranean.
The fury of the storm and the rainfall caused the dams built along the Wadi River, which flows down from the mountains to the city, to collapse. Suddenly 33 million cubic metres of water poured over the latter, causing flooding and submerging roads and buildings. It is estimated that about a quarter of the city, people living there, houses, cars, everything was swept away and washed into the Mediterranean.
Units of the Libyan navy are sailing off the coast of Derna to recover the bodies of entire families, which have been washed out to sea. In other areas, people are digging with their bare hands in the mud and rubble in an attempt to recover missing people, but only extracting hundreds of victims, who are buried in mass graves in the Martouba cemetery on the outskirts of the city.
Not only Derna was hit by Cyclone Daniel, but also Benghazi, Sousse, al-Mary to al-Bayada, albeit with less consequences, but there were deaths and injuries in those areas too. As for the death and wounded count, the latest bulletins speak of at least 5,500 dead and 7,000 wounded. Spokesman Osama Ali said it was not yet possible to determine the final death toll, as bodies were still being recovered in the affected areas. Between 18,000 and 20,000 are feared dead. According to the latest estimates, around 10,000 people are missing, and around 30,000 are displaced.