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Devastating Earthquake Strikes Morocco, Claiming Over 1,000 Lives and Homes

Devastating Earthquake Strikes Morocco, Claiming Over 1,000 Lives and Homes

Devastating Earthquake Strikes Morocco, Claiming Over 1,000 Lives and Homes
Devastating Earthquake Strikes Morocco, Claiming Over 1,000 Lives and Homes(Image-Getty)

 In the aftermath of the most devastating earthquake to strike Morocco in over six decades, rescue efforts were underway in remote mountain villages on a Saturday. The earthquake, which occurred in the High Atlas mountains late on a Friday night, caused significant destruction, resulting in the tragic loss of more than 1,000 lives and leaving many people without homes.

The impact of the earthquake extended beyond the epicenter, which was near the city of Marrakech. Historic buildings in Marrakech itself suffered damage, but the majority of the fatalities were reported in the mountainous regions to the south.

According to the Interior Ministry, the earthquake, which had a magnitude of 6.8 according to the U.S. Geological Survey, claimed the lives of 1,037 people and left 672 others injured. The epicenter was located approximately 72 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech.

In the village of Amizmiz, close to the epicenter, rescue teams worked tirelessly to sift through the rubble, often using their bare hands. Fallen debris obstructed narrow streets, and outside a local hospital, around 10 bodies were covered in blankets as grieving relatives stood nearby.

One resident, Mohamed Azaw, shared the harrowing experience of the earthquake: "When I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet and the house leaning, I rushed to get my kids out. But my neighbors couldn't. Unfortunately, no one was found alive in that family. The father and son were found dead, and they are still searching for the mother and the daughter."

Rescuers in Amizmiz had to navigate the precarious remains of collapsed buildings, with fragments of carpets and furniture jutting out from the debris. In this dire situation, a long line of people formed outside the only open shop as they sought essential supplies. The challenges faced by rescuers were further compounded by fallen boulders that blocked a road leading from Amizmiz to a nearby village.

In Asni, located approximately 40 kilometers south of Marrakech, nearly all houses were damaged, forcing villagers to prepare for a night outdoors. Food shortages were prevalent as the roofs of kitchens had collapsed, leaving villagers like Mohamed Ouhammo struggling to find sustenance.

Montasir Itri, another resident of Asni, described the ongoing efforts to rescue survivors: "Our neighbors are under the rubble, and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village."

The earthquake, which struck around 11 p.m. (2200 GMT), affected a wide area encompassing the High Atlas mountain range. Its tremors were felt as far away as Huelva and Jaen in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia.

The World Health Organization reported that more than 300,000 people were affected in Marrakech and its surrounding areas.

In Marrakech itself, where 13 people were confirmed dead, residents spent the night outdoors, fearing to return to their homes. In the heart of the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a mosque minaret had collapsed in Jemaa al-Fna Square.

Injured individuals streamed into Marrakech from the surrounding areas, seeking medical treatment. Moroccan state television aired footage showing numerous houses collapsed in the Moulay Ibrahim area, approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Marrakech, with residents digging graves as groups of women stood in the streets.

Residents of Marrakech described desperate scenes as people fled their homes for safety. Many were still reluctant to return to their houses due to the shock and the fact that the old town predominantly comprised of old, vulnerable buildings.

Morocco quickly mobilized troops to assist in the aftermath of the disaster. Additionally, countries like Turkey, which had experienced devastating earthquakes earlier that year, offered solidarity and support. Despite ongoing tensions, Algeria opened its airspace for humanitarian and medical flights to aid the affected region.

The earthquake was recorded at a depth of 18.5 kilometers, a depth that typically results in more destructive outcomes compared to deeper earthquakes of the same magnitude. It marked Morocco's deadliest earthquake since 1960 when a quake estimated to have claimed at least 12,000 lives, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Mohammad Kashani, Associate Professor of Structural and Earthquake Engineering at the University of Southampton, noted that shallow earthquakes are usually more destructive. He drew parallels between the scenes in Morocco and those witnessed in Turkey earlier in the year, emphasizing that the area was characterized by old and historical buildings, many of which were constructed using masonry and, in some cases, substandard materials.

Despite the impending annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank scheduled to be held in Marrakech from October 9, officials stressed that their primary focus at this time was on the well-being of the people affected by the tragic earthquake.

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