Agadir, February 29, 1960, 11:45 pm…
With a magnitude of 5.6 on the Richter scale of 9 levels, this terrible earthquake occurred in the middle of the night on February 29, 1960 at 11:45 pm.
It struck Agadir and proved to be of relatively low intensity in view of the considerable human and material damage it caused.
It will remain in the history of Morocco the most deadly earthquake of the XXth century, destroying completely or almost the districts located in the north of the wadi Tidli.
Burying under its rubble in some places more than 90% of the inhabitants, causing about fifteen thousand victims, about 30% of the population and as many wounded, leaving a thriving city bloody and forever irreparable scars in many lives and memories.
The devastating reasons for the earthquake
Several causes would explain these damages, Agadir of formerly being among others built on one of the principal seismic faults of Morocco.
Volcano-tectonic fault named South Atlasic which would extend throughout southern Morocco from the Figuig region in the southeast to the volcanic Canary Islands via Agadir, already destroyed by a similar event in 1731.
Another cause would be that Agadir was directly on the epicentre of the earthquake which dug a devastating horizontal furrow, going from north to south for several kilometres following more or less the geological fault which borders the northern bed of the Tidli wadi and which flows into the bay of Agadir.
To this is added the activity of the seismic focus, the epicentre of which may be several tens of kilometres deep, presumably 3 or 4 in the case of Agadir, thus amplifying the devastating effect which acts both horizontally and vertically by developing numerous seismic waves.
The first tremors
There were two announcing tremors, one weak on February 23 a week before this terrible event and the second, more intense, a dozen hours before the cataclysm, which cracked walls and facades of many buildings. And in the middle of the night at 11:45 pm, this deadly earthquake lasted only a handful of interminable seconds.
A traditional and fragile district next to modern and more solid constructions
It is also necessary to specify that the districts to the north of the wadi, the kasbah, majestically overhanging the city, Talborjt, Yachech which were along this geological fault bordering the wadi Tidli then, Founti, were places with traditional and fragile constructions, thus supporting their massive destruction.
On the other hand, the old new city built south of the wadi, along the coast, with buildings made of modern materials, more resistant, undergoes only 60% destruction.
The surroundings near the town outside this tragic furrow endured little damage. The tremors, already less strong in Inezgane (12 km) were nevertheless perceived until Taroudant and Essaouira, even weaker in Casablanca or Marrakesh.
Rescue is getting organized
In the early morning of this fateful 29 February 1960, as soon as everyone knew the sad news, solidarity and relief were quickly organized.
A crisis cell was very quickly convened by His Late Majesty Mohammed V to create a reconstruction commission to be entrusted to Crown Prince Moulay Hassan.
Under his aegis, it was decided that the new Agadir would be rebuilt, under the leadership of French architects, two kilometres further south from the geological fault of the Tidli wadi, leaving the most affected districts to the north of the wadi; the kasbah, Yash, Founti thus becoming non-constructible zones.
The French and Dutch navies, the port having been relatively spared, joined quickly, in a great solidarity impulse to the relief of severely tested populations.
Common graves were dug on the road to Benzergao and Anza, then two days later, once the last survivors had been rescued, the douar of Yachech, practically destroyed, was covered with quicklime in order to avoid, heat helping, any risk of epidemic blooms, and the city was evacuated.
The rebirth of Agadir
The foundation stone of the new city was laid on 30 June 1960 when the excavations of the disaster had just begun, uncovering a large number of corpses in the rubble and ruins.
Then rising from its ashes, Agadir was rebuilt, developed while preserving its port, maritime and tourist identity. A new city centre has been created, with beautiful and wide avenues, equipped with shops, services and modern hotel infrastructures.
Next to the nice Olhão Garden a museum has been designed in memory of this dramatic event and all its victims. Today, the capital of Souss has become a flourishing seaside city, with a port with modern infrastructures, one of the most efficient in Morocco.
Its marina, its long promenade by the sea, its white sandy beach, its water sports make it a destination and a privileged resort, one of the most prized, and a city on the other hand, because of its airport, resolutely turned towards the international.
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