Bits and Pieces

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Earthquake Kills Dozens... Hundreds?

An earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale has killed at least 82 people, with up to 300 possible deaths, in northern Morocco.

The earthquake hit near Al Hoceima, a port on the Strait of Gibraltar, in the early hours of the day.

I spent a little time in Morocco, and wrote my dissertation on building codes in undeveloped countries, so I'm fairly familiar with the building standards in the country. When people think of buildings in countries like Morocco they think of Islamic architecture and mud-brick walled ancient buildings. What they don't think of are the shoddily built tenements thrown up using any materials available, buildings that are held up by will alone. These wrecks can barely take a stiff breeze, never mind an earthquake. The problem is that building codes are rarely enforced in undeveloped countries, and we see the result year in and year out. Izmit, Turkey; Bam, Iran. Tens of thousands dead, because they can't afford to ensure safe building practises. All I can say is it's lucky this quake didn't hit in Tangier or Rabat. If that happened we'd be looking at thousands instead of dozens dead.

*Update* - the death toll has increased to at least 229.
*Another update* - the death toll is now at least 560.
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