As Morocco reels from deadly quake, survivors seek aid
Death toll of more than 2,100 seems likely to rise
Moulay Brahim, Morocco — Survivors of Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in more than six decades struggled to find food and water on Sunday as the search for the missing continued in hard-to-reach villages and the death toll of more than 2,100 seemed likely to rise.
Many people spent a second night in the open after the 6.8 magnitude quake hit late on Friday. Relief workers face the challenge of reaching the most badly affected villages in the High Atlas, a rugged mountain range where settlements are often remote and where many houses crumbled.
The death toll climbed to 2,122 with 2,421 people injured, state TV reported. Morocco said it may accept relief offers from other countries and will work to co-ordinate them if needed, according to state TV.
The damage done to Morocco’s cultural heritage became more evident as local media reported the collapse of a historically important 12th-century mosque. The quake also damaged parts of Marrakesh old city, a Unesco World Heritage site.
In Moulay Brahim, a village near the epicentre about 40km south of Marrakesh, residents described how they had dug the dead from the rubble using their bare hands.
“We lost our houses and we lost people also and we are sleeping two days outside,” said Yassin Noumghar, another Moulay Brahim resident. “No food. No water. We lost also electricity,” he said, adding that he had received little government aid so far.
With many homes built of mud bricks and timber or cement and breeze blocks, structures crumbled easily. It was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 when a quake was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people.
Some aid efforts were under way in his village. Residents said food donations were coming from friends and family who live elsewhere. On Sunday morning cheese, bread and hot drinks were being distributed at the mosque. Makeshift tents had been erected on a dirt soccer pitch.
The army, mobilised to help the rescue effort, set up a camp with tents for the homeless. With most shops damaged or closed, residents struggled to get food and supplies.
Residents were wrapped in blankets after spending the night outdoors. One man, who was salvaging mattresses and clothes from his wrecked home, said he believed his neighbours were still under the rubble.
The government said on Saturday it was taking urgent measures to address the disaster including strengthening search and rescue teams, providing drinking water and distributing food, tents and blankets.
Spain received a formal request from Morocco for assistance and it would be sending search and rescue teams, the Spanish foreign minister said. France said it stood ready to help and was awaiting such a request from Morocco. Other countries offering assistance include Turkey, where earthquakes in February killed more than 50,000 people.
The World Health Organisation said more than 300,000 people have been affected by the disaster.
“The next 24 to 48 hours will be critical in terms of saving lives,” Caroline Holt, global director of operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a statement.
A road connecting Marrakesh to Moulay Brahim was partly blocked by fallen boulders.
“There are a lot of people still under the rubble. People are still searching for their parents,” Adeeni Mustafa, a resident from the Asni area, said.
Morocco has declared three days of mourning and King Mohammed VI called for prayers for the dead to be held at mosques across the country on Sunday.
The village of Tansghart in the Ansi area, on the side of a valley where the road from Marrakesh rises up into the High Atlas, was the worst hit of several. Its picturesque houses, clinging to a steep hillside, were cracked open by the shaking ground. Those still standing were missing chunks of wall or plaster. Two mosque minarets had fallen.
The quake’s epicentre was 72km southwest of Marrakesh, a city beloved of Moroccans and foreign tourists for its medieval mosques, palaces and seminaries richly adorned with vivid mosaic tiling amid a labyrinth of rose-hued alleyways.
Marrakesh’s old quarter suffered extensive damage. Families huddled on the streets, fearing their homes were no longer safe to return to.
Marrakesh is due to host the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank from October 9.
An IMF spokesperson, asked on Saturday about the planned meetings, said: “Our sole focus at this time is on the people of Morocco and the authorities who are dealing with this tragedy.”
Update: September 10 2023
This story has been updated with the new death toll and additional information.
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