The search continues for survivors after a powerful earthquake rocked the mountain villages outside of Marrakech, Morocco late Friday night. Here is the latest news on this natural disaster and where the search and rescue operations stand.
Over 2,800 People Now Confirmed Dead in Morocco After Powerful Earthquake
The Moroccan state media has confirmed that over 2,800 people are dead after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Atlas Mountain range area late last week. With over 2,500 injuries, the death toll is expected to rise in the coming days. The province of Al Hauoz has seen the most fatalities, with at least 1,500 confirmed deaths.
The epicenter of the quake was located about 45 miles from the popular tourist destination and densely populated city of Marrakech. Because the earthquake struck at a relatively shallow depth of just 11.4 miles under the surface of the ground, the event was more destructive than other similar tremors at this magnitude.
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), earthquakes in this part of Africa are rare. There have been only nine earthquakes measuring higher than a magnitude of five since 1900. Friday's earthquake is now distinguished as the strongest to hit the center of the country in over a century.
Damage of Marrakech
Although the epicenter was dozens of miles from Marrakech, several of the city's historic sites have been damaged. The UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Marrakech Medina sustained a large amount of infrastructure damage. Some of the oldest buildings within the ancient site have collapsed entirely.
The famous Medina district is enclosed by the iconic red sandstone walls that distinguish this old city. Large sections of these walls are now cracked and crumbling.
The promising news is that the modern parts of Marrakech were largely unaffected by the earthquake.
Epicenter's Remote Location Complicating Search and Rescue Efforts
Unfortunately, the worst of the damage in rural Morocco is centered on the remote mountainous terrain. This location is complicating the search and rescue efforts as roadways have been blocked due to debris and infrastructure damage. Rubble obstructing the ways in and out of these remote villages have hindered the ability of rescuers to reach survivors in need of help.
Some villages located in the foothills of the mountain range were completely wiped out. Nearly all of the homes in the Asni village suffered some degree of damage. The village of Moulay Brahim also experienced extensive damage, forcing residents to sleep on makeshift camps at a local sports field because their homes were left too unstable to inhabit. The risk of aftershocks has added another layer of anxiety to the grief-stricken area.
Survivors are detailing how they have been left to fend for themselves after the quake. It took nearly 48 hours for some aid convoys to arrive to the hardest-hit areas. As a result, humanitarian response experts are predicting a number of secondary deaths as a result of the disaster.
National and International Response
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI mandated the formation of a relief commission to oversee the aid to survivors. Funeral ceremonies began Sunday after the king ordered all mosques to hold prayers at noon for those who died in the disaster.
International leaders are stepping up and pledging financial support in the relief efforts. For instance, France announced on Monday that it will give 5 million euros to the agencies supplying the relief in Morocco.
Spain has sent over 50 soldiers along with four canine search dogs to help with the effort. The country of Turkey announced that it was going to send 265 personnel along with 1,000 tents to the region. Meanwhile, Britain sent 60 rescue specialists, four search dogs, and a variety of specialized equipment to help to sift through the rubble.
Despite strained diplomatic relations, the neighboring nation of Algeria said that it was opening its airspace for humanitarian aid efforts. Algeria had previously closed this airspace to Morocco in 2021.
The mass international response will be needed in the coming days and weeks. According to UNICEF, there have been about 100,000 children impacted by the earthquake. UNICEF has yet to determine how many children were killed in the tragedy. The agency has already deployed its trained humanitarian workers to support the immediate needs on the ground.
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