Morocco Faces Grim Aftermath of Devastating 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake
Survivors of Morocco's most devastating earthquake in over six decades are facing a dire situation as they struggle to find food and water. The death toll, which has already exceeded 2,000, is expected to rise further as the search for missing individuals continues.
The earthquake, measuring 6.8 magnitude, struck late on a Friday, leaving many people spending a second night in the open. Relief workers are grappling with the challenge of reaching the most affected villages in the High Atlas, a rugged mountain range characterized by remote settlements and collapsed houses.
The disaster has also taken a toll on Morocco's cultural heritage, with reports of a historically significant 12th-century mosque collapsing. Additionally, parts of Marrakech's old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, have been damaged.
In Moulay Brahim, a village near the epicenter located 40 km (25 miles) south of Marrakech, residents have resorted to digging through rubble with their bare hands to recover the deceased. Many have been left homeless, facing shortages of water, food, and power. The government response has been criticized for being insufficient, leaving residents in dire need of assistance.
Later, some relief arrived in the form of food sacks from a government and civil society-organized truck, but supplies remained limited. Medical clinics in affected areas began to experience shortages of certain first aid items as the number of casualties increased.
The earthquake's impact was exacerbated by the prevalence of mud brick and timber homes in the area, making structures highly vulnerable to collapse. This disaster marks Morocco's deadliest earthquake since 1960 when a quake claimed an estimated 12,000 lives.
Makeshift tents have been set up on soccer fields, with residents wrapped in blankets as they spend nights outdoors. Many fear that their neighbors may still be trapped under the debris.
In the village of Amizmiz, located 27 km (17 miles) west of Moulay Brahim, residents also faced difficulties finding food and shelter, despite some government-distributed tents.
The Moroccan government has initiated urgent measures to address the disaster, including reinforcing search and rescue teams, providing essential supplies like water, food, tents, and blankets. Several countries, including France, Turkey, Spain, and Qatar, have offered assistance, with some already dispatching search and rescue teams.
Caroline Holt, the global director of operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), emphasized the critical nature of the next few days in terms of finding survivors trapped under rubble. She noted that the international aid system was awaiting an invitation from Morocco to provide assistance.
Morocco has declared three days of mourning, and King Mohammed VI has called for prayers for the deceased to be held at mosques nationwide. The earthquake struck 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech, a city known for its historical sites, and it is set to host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the coming weeks. However, the focus remains on addressing the humanitarian crisis caused by the earthquake.