Morocco: 60 Years Ago, the City of Agadir Was Destroyed to the Ground by an Earthquake

On 29 February 1960, the city of Agadir, southwest of Morocco, was wiped off the map in a few seconds by a devastating earthquake. At least 12,000 people died, some 25,000 were injured and the city collapsed.

It was 11:40 pm on the last day of February in Agadir, on the Atlantic coast of the Cherifian Kingdom, when the earth began to shake. “With a magnitude of 5.7 on the Richter scale, the earthquake was said to be ‘moderate’,” writes Paris Match magazine… Moderate? In fact, the epicenter is just below the city, itself located on a seismic fault. As a result, between 12,000 and 15,000 people, or a third of the population, were killed in the most serious earthquake in Morocco’s recent history.

A few hours earlier, two small premonitory tremors, one in the morning and the other in the late afternoon, had already shaken the ground. But they had not caused much concern in Agadir, a city whose roots go back to antiquity. However, the city had already suffered an earthquake in 1731.

“Everyone, without exception, was struck. The governor of the city, Mr Bouamrani, lost three children; the French consul, Mr Jeudi, grieved for his son Philippe; the commander of the royal gendarme never saw his little girl again after the incident, and entire families perished,” said the special reporter for Le Figaro, André Lagny.

Those closest to the mountain were the most affected, while the port suffered little. The kasbah, the citadel that dominated Agadir, was completely destroyed.

“Help was made very difficult because the men of the three Moroccan army companies stationed in Agadir were themselves blocked by the remains of their barracks,” continued André Lagny. Gendarmes and police officers were experiencing the same problems.

Soldiers from a nearby French naval airbase and the French Mediterranean Wing, reinforced by Dutch sailors, came to assist the 30,000 or so survivors, all of whom became homeless. “From all sides, armored boats and rowboats rushed towards the port and the beach to support the locals.”, reports the special reporter for Paris Match, Georges Menant.

A hundred or so guests stayed in what remains of the Saada Hotel, where holes had to be dug in the concrete. The smallest of the rescuers “managed to sneak through the rubble. I picked up their calls, which often went unanswered,” says André Lagny.

Agadir was evacuated. “The city will have to be leveled in order to build another one,” explained to Le Figaro Crown Prince Moulay Hassan, the future Hassan II, charged by King Mohammed V to lead the rescue operations. In fact, the city was very quickly rebuilt two kilometers further south to reduce the earthquake risks.

Since 1960, the earth has shaken again in Agadir. Notably on February 20, 2017: a tremor of 4.2 on the Richter scale, which lasted three seconds, was recorded in the entire region of Chtouka Ait Baha without causing any damage, reports the Moroccan site Le360: “The tremor still scared the inhabitants. Some of them left their homes in a hurry, especially since the 1960 earthquake still lingers in the collective unconscious.”

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