2,000+ Lives Lost as Earthquake Strikes Morocco
By Laurence Peter & Maria Zaccaro
Sunday September 10, 2023
More than 2,000 people have lost their lives and a similar number have been injured in a powerful earthquake that struck Morocco.
The interior ministry reports that over 1,400 individuals have sustained serious injuries, with the worst affected areas located just south of Marrakesh.
King Mohammed VI has declared a three-day period of national mourning and has provided directives for the provision of shelter, food, and other necessary aid to survivors.
Many people are currently spending their second night outdoors.
The earthquake, measuring 6.8 magnitude, occurred on Friday night and affected Marrakesh and numerous other towns. Reports indicate that entire villages have been flattened in remote mountain areas.
The epicenter of the earthquake was in the High Atlas Mountains, approximately 71km (44 miles) southwest of Marrakesh – a city of world heritage significance that draws many tourists.
The tremors were felt not only in the capital, Rabat, which is 350km away, but also in Casablanca, Agadir, and Essaouira.
According to the interior ministry, Al Haouz province has experienced the highest number of casualties, followed by Taroudant province. While Marrakesh has seen fewer deaths, the UNESCO-protected old city has suffered significant damage.
It is anticipated that many simple homes made of mud brick, stone, and timber in mountain villages have collapsed. However, assessing the extent of devastation in remote areas will require some time.
Upon arriving in one such village, BBC correspondent Nick Beake encountered an elderly woman who was mourning the loss of 18 individuals recovered from that specific location.
Due to the fear of aftershocks, many people are spending the night camping there. They express desperate shortages of food and water. Nevertheless, reaching these locations is challenging due to the presence of rocks and debris on mountain roads, impeding access for emergency services.
Flags on all public buildings in the country will fly at half-mast for the next three days, as announced by the royal palace.
The king has instructed the armed forces to assist rescue teams, and Moroccans are donating blood as part of the national collective effort to aid the victims.
Friday’s earthquake marks the deadliest in Morocco since the devastating 6.7-magnitude earthquake in Agadir in 1960, which claimed over 12,000 lives.
It is also the most powerful earthquake to hit Morocco in over a century.
The United Nations has expressed its readiness to support the Moroccan government in rescue operations. Similar pledges of assistance have been made by several countries, including Spain, France, and Israel.
Despite recent strained relations with Morocco, neighboring Algeria has opened its airspace to humanitarian flights bound for Morocco.
Many families were trapped when the earthquake struck during the night.
Montasir Itri, a resident of the mountain village of Asni near the epicenter, told Reuters, “Our neighbors are trapped under rubble, and people are working diligently to rescue them using available resources in the village.”
Houda Outassaf was in Jemaa el-Fna Square in Marrakesh when the ground started shaking.
“I have lost at least 10 members of my family… I can hardly believe it, considering that I was with them just two days ago,” Outassaf recounted to AFP news agency.
In Jemaa el-Fna Square, a mosque minaret collapsed, and numerous narrow streets in the city’s old Medina are now filled with rubble.