In summary, it may be stated that the Agadir earthquake of February 29, 1960, was one of the most devastating local quakes of all times.
Within a period of a few seconds and over an area of only a few square miles, the bulk of the city of Agadir was completely destroyed and over a third of its citizens killed. In areas such as the Kasbah and Yachech the death toll amounted to 95 per cent of the population, and almost every structure was completely shattered. The total number of casualties will never be known; thousands of bodies could not be recovered from the debris. But a reasonable estimate has indicated at least 12,000 killed and 12,000 wounded.
A huge earthquake has devastated the southern Moroccan city of Agadir killing thousands. A major operation is now underway to rescue scores of people, including many tourists, still trapped under the rubble.
Most of the "new town" area of Agadir has been completely destroyed and the heavily populated Talborit quarter is believed to have been the hardest hit.
The number of dead currently stands at more than 1,000 although some have suggested the toll could rise to as many as 20,000.
The 1960 Agadir earthquake took place on February 29, 1960, at 23:40 local time. It was the most destructive and deadliest earthquake in Moroccan history with a magnitude of 5.7 Mw, killing around 15,000 people (about a third of the city's population of the time) and wounding another 12,000. At least 35,000 people were left homeless. Despite its moderate magnitude, the earthquake's shallow focus and proximity to the major city of Agadir made it very destructive.
The night of February 29, 1960 was a typical winter night in Agadir, warm and clear, with the stars bright overhead. The hotels were filled with a gay tourist crowd, and the native Moroccans were celebrating and feasting in observance of the third night of Ramadan, the annual religious season which Mohammedans observe by fasting through the daylight hours and feasting by night. Only one factor distinguished this particular evening from the others of the season; slight earthquakes had been felt during the past week and a particularly strong shock had occurred this day, just before noon. This was a bit disquieting for a region in which common knowledge insisted earthquakes "never" occurred.
Then at 11:41 p.m. the earth gave a sudden violent lurch. A survivor said, "The earth was kicked from under us." The ground motions lasted less than 15 seconds, but in this brief time the old masonry buildings in the Kasbah, Founti, and Yachech districts wobbled and collapsed, burying thousands of Moroccans in the rubble. In the Talborjt district, the newer, more modern appearing buildings developed cracks in the plaster exposing the weak masonry beneath; whole walls broke loose and crashed into the streets; complete buildings settled into rubble, burying thousands of Moroccans in the debris. In the New City and the Front-de-Mer, modern appearing reinforced concrete hotels and apartments revealed their deficiencies in design and construction, collapsing in total ruin and burying hundreds of Europeans in the heaps of twisted beams, columns, and shattered floor slabs. Within seconds entire districts of the city had been destroyed, thousands of people had been killed outright, and even more tragically, additional thousands had been buried alive in the debris to die agonizing deaths days later.
Rescue efforts were mobilized by many nations almost at once. The first news of the disaster was flashed to the outside world by the radios of Spanish fishing vessels anchored in Agadir harbor. French sailors and marines at the Agadir naval base were alerted by the ground motions and had rescue trucks on their way to the city within an hour. They were followed to the scene by Moroccan soldiers and French military personnel from other nearby bases. The next day King Mohammed V arrived to survey the magnitude of the disaster, and immediately placed his son, Prince Moulay Hassan in charge of all rescue operations. The same day air lifts of rescuers and emergency supplies began to arrive from American bases in Morocco and Germany. The Spanish military forces organized their own air lift, sending in soldiers and additional supplies.
On March 3, Company A of the 79th Engineer Battalion, U.S. Army, arrived from Germany by air lift, with complete field and construction equipment, By this time very few persons were found still alive in the debris, and the heavy equipment was soon assigned to leveling the few walls which remained standing in the Kasbah and Yachech areas so that the decontamination crews could operate. The bulldozers also performed very effectively in opening the streets which has been thoroughly blocked with debris falling from the buildings. The principal rescue efforts were terminated on March 4, in favor of drastic measures for decontamination and disease prevention. However, a few people were found still alive after having been buried in the rubble for as long as ten days.
In summary, it may be stated that the Agadir earthquake of February 29, 1960, was one of the most devastating local quakes of all times. Within a period of a few seconds and over an area of only a few square miles, the bulk of the city of Agadir was completely destroyed and over a third of its citizens killed. In areas such as the Kasbah and Yachech the death toll amounted to 95 per cent of the population, and almost every structure was completely shattered. The total number of casualties will never be known; thousands of bodies could not be recovered from the debris. But a reasonable estimate has indicated at least 12,000 killed and 12,000 wounded.
Photo Gallery from the 1960 earthquake in Agadir
Agadir 1960 Webpage (in French)