Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Twenty people have been killed in northern Morocco when a 6.0 strength earthquake struck early this morning. More news will almost certainly be coming. The earthquake was felt in Melilla but not in any other part of Spain. My guess is that buildings in Melilla are constructed according to at least a minimal building code that means they don't fall down in 6.0 earthquakes. I wonder how true this is in Morocco. Remember that recent earthquake in eastern Iran that destroyed a whole city that was mostly built of adobe and that killed thousands of people? Natural disasters that have little effect in places with modern safety standards can be huge killers in places that don't have them. Here's CNN International's story.

UPDATE: Here's FoxNews saying that there are at least 300 dead and that the quake was felt across southern Spain. No damage is reported from Spain. The area hit is dirt-poor and earns its living supplying Europe with hashish. The difference between the poverty on one side of the Straits of Gibraltar and the wealth on the other is greater than that on one side of the Rio Grande and the other.

GDP per head according to purchasing-power parity (USA=100)

United States 100
Mexico 25.3
Spain 55.9
Morocco 10.4

The average American is four times as rich as the average Mexican; the average Spaniard is more than five times richer than the average Moroccan. And if you thought Mexico was poor, wait till you see Morocco.

(Source: The Economist Pocket World in Figures 2002)

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