| 27 September 2023, Wednesday |

Morocco survivors seek aid as earthquake toll of 2,000 seen likely to rise

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 2,000 seemed likely to rise further.

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 worst-affected villages in the High Atlas, a rugged mountain range where settlements are often remote and where many houses crumbled.

Moroccan media reported the collapse of a historically important 12th century mosque, underlining damage to the country’s cultural heritage. The quake also damaged parts of Marrakech old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In Moulay Brahim, a village near the epicenter 40 km (25 miles) south of Marrakech, 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 like two days outside,” said 36-year-old Yassin Noumghar, a Moulay Brahim resident. Complaining of shortages of water, food and power, Noumghar said he had received little government aid so far. “We want just for our government to help us,” he said, expressing a frustration voiced by others.

Later, sacks of food were unloaded from a truck which local official Mouhamad al-Hayyan said had been organized by the government and civil society organizations.

Twenty-five bodies had been brought to Moulay Brahim’s small medical clinic, according to staff there who warned they were starting to face a shortage of some first aid supplies.

With many homes built of mud bricks and timber, structures in the area crumbled easily. It was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 when a quake was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Other countries offering assistance include Turkey, where earthquakes in February killed more than 50,000 people. By Sunday, the Turkish team had not yet departed.

Spain, however, said it had on Sunday received a formal request from Morocco for assistance and would be sending search and rescue teams. Qatar also said its search and rescue team had departed for Morocco.

“The next 2-3 days will be critical for finding people trapped under the rubble,” Caroline Holt, global director of operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told Reuters.

She said the international aid system has been waiting for an invitation from Morocco to assist, adding this was not necessarily unusual as the government assesses needs.

A spokesperson for Morocco’s government did not immediately respond to Reuters phone calls seeking comment.

  • Reuters