Seismic technology transfer between Japan and Morocco

Monday January 20, at 8:58 p.m., the earth shook under the feet of the inhabitants of the peaceful valley of Zaouiat Ahensal. In this small town in the province of Azilal, perched at an altitude of more than 1,700 m, the earthquake reached a magnitude of 3.4 degrees on the Richter scale, according to a bulletin from the National Monitoring and Surveillance Network. seismic alert from the National Institute of Geophysics (ING). Except for a few blocks of ice that broke off the snow-capped peaks, the shock would not have caused any material or human damage. Chance of life or irony of fate, a few hundred kilometers further north, Morocco received seven high-tech earthquake early warning equipment. Made available to the National Center for Scientific and Technical Research (CNRST) and offered by the Japanese company “Challenge Company Limited”, recognized worldwide for its know-how in this area, thanks in particular to the UNESCO Office for the Maghreb, this equipment was dispatched between the National Institute of Geophysics (ING) and the scientific and technical universities of strategic cities in the national seismic activity, namely Kénitra, Larache, Tangier, Al Hoceima, Nador and Fez. Concretely, the materials in question make it possible not only to detect earthquakes early but also “to launch warning messages through loudspeakers”, specifies the UNESCO Office for the Maghreb in a press release, before adding “that they are also of great use for the Tsunami warning and can trigger the instant shutdown of certain sensitive equipment such as machines at nuclear power plants, trains and elevators”. In view of the resurgence of seismic activity in the Kingdom since the advent of the 21st century, this equipment will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the future. Certainly, “Morocco is considered a country of moderate seismicity compared to other countries of the Mediterranean basin such as Algeria, Greece, Italy or Turkey” explains Professor Mohammed Taj-Eddine Cherkaoui Maknassi, in a report. doctoral thesis entitled “The seismic risk in the North of Morocco”. But at the same time, he qualifies his remarks by stressing that “the data of historical and instrumental seismicity show that Morocco is not immune to destructive earthquakes as was the case in 1522, 1624, 1755 or in 1960 ”. Without forgetting the violent earthquake which took by surprise the inhabitants of the North of the country on the night of February 23 to 24, 2004. An earthquake estimated at 6 degrees on the Richter scale, whose epicenter was located in the town of Aït Kamra, under the province of Al Hoceima, left no less than 629 dead, 926 injured, 15,230 homeless and 2,539 houses collapsed. In short, Morocco is not immune to a disaster like that of February 23, 2004 in the evening. Especially since the seismic activity has more than doubled in frequency over the past 20 years. Indeed, if one believes the specialized site “”, between 1959 and 1999, 22 tremors were recorded on the national territory, oscillating between 4 to 6 degrees on the scale of Richter, against more than the triple in half the time since 2000. During the past two decades, a total of 82 tremors, ranging from 4 to 6 degrees, have been recorded, mainly in the northern regions, located in a collision zone, near the boundary between the two plates Africa – Eurasia. Obviously, the seismic activity in the country has accelerated markedly. An acceleration that the development and improvement of tools for measuring and preventing earthquakes cannot explain on their own. On the other hand, the latter are more essential than ever in the survival of populations. All the more so in Morocco as elsewhere, the last few years have seen an increase in damage linked to natural hazards, mainly because of the concentration of populations and activities in risk areas. An even more worrying observation in the event of a Tsunami. Indeed, the hypothesis of a giant wave breaking on the Moroccan Atlantic coast cannot be ruled out. But it is less likely than the risk of a tidal wave that hangs over the Mediterranean rim of the Kingdom (see opposite). Consequently, the recent technological transfer and the cooperation in terms of know-how between Moroccan and Japanese scientists, which moreover do not date from yesterday, are more than ever a necessity to envisage a less scary tomorrow. Chady Chaabi