Earthquake in Morocco kills more than 2,000 people, survivors sleep poorly

Moroccan earthquake survivors huddled outdoors in the High Atlas Mountains for a night on Saturday, a day after the country’s deadliest earthquake in more than six decades killed more than 2,000 people and devastated villages. Neighbors were still searching for survivors buried on the hillsides where houses made of mud brick, stone and rough wood were cracked open by the quake that struck late Friday and minarets of mosques were toppled. The historic old town of Marrakech also suffered significant damage.

According to the Interior Ministry, 2,012 people were killed and 2,059 injured, including 1,404 in critical condition. According to the US Geological Survey, the quake had a magnitude of 6.8 and its epicenter was about 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech. In the village of Amizmiz, near the epicenter, rescue workers dug through rubble with their bare hands. Fallen masonry blocked narrow streets. About 10 bodies lay wrapped in blankets outside a hospital while grieving relatives stood nearby.

“When I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet and the house tilting, I rushed to get my children out. But my neighbors couldn’t,” said Mohamed Azaw. “Unfortunately, no one from this family has been found alive. The father and son were found dead and they are still looking for the mother and daughter.” Rescuers stood on the pancake floors of a building in Amizmiz, pieces of carpet and furniture sticking out of the rubble. A long line formed outside the only store open as people searched for supplies. To illustrate the challenges facing rescue workers, fallen boulders blocked a road from Amizmiz to a nearby village.

Almost all houses in the Asni area, about 40 km south of Marrakesh, were damaged and villagers prepared to spend the night outside. Food was scarce because kitchen roofs had collapsed, villager Mohamed Ouhammo said. Montasir Itri, a resident of Asni, said the search for survivors was underway.

“Our neighbors are under the rubble and people are working hard to save them using the resources available in the village,” he said.

The village of Tansghart in the Ansi region, on the side of a valley where the road from Marrakesh rises into the High Atlas Mountains, was the worst hit, Reuters reported. The once pretty houses, which stood on a steep hillside, were torn apart by the shaking ground. Those that were still standing had pieces of wall or plaster missing. Two mosque minarets collapsed.

Abdellatif Ait Bella, a worker, lay on the floor, barely able to move or speak. His head was bandaged due to wounds caused by falling debris.

“We don’t have a house to take him to and we haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday,” said his wife Saida Bodchich, who feared for the future of their family of six, whose sole breadwinner was so badly injured. “We can rely on no one but God.”

The village is already mourning ten deaths, including two teenage girls, a resident said.

The tremors were felt as far away as Huelva and Jaen in southern Spain. According to the World Health Organization, more than 300,000 people were affected in Marrakech and the surrounding area.

Looking for protection

Street camera footage in Marrakesh showed the moment the earth began to shake, as men suddenly looked around and jumped to their feet, while others sought shelter in an alley and then fled as dust and debris swirled around them. In the heart of the old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the minaret of a mosque in Djemaa al-Fna Square collapsed. Some houses in the densely packed old town collapsed and people used their hands to clear debris as they waited for heavy equipment, said resident Id Waaziz Hassan.

Morocco has declared three days of national mourning, during which the national flag will be flown at half-staff across the country, the royal court said on Saturday.

The Moroccan armed forces would send rescue teams to provide clean drinking water, food, tents and blankets to the affected areas, it said.

Turkey, where powerful earthquakes killed more than 50,000 people in February, was among the nations that expressed solidarity and offered support.

Algeria, which cut ties with Morocco in 2021 after tensions escalated between the countries focused on the Western Sahara conflict, said it would open airspace to humanitarian and medical flights. The quake was recorded at a depth of 18.5 km and was typically more destructive than deeper quakes of the same magnitude. According to the US Geological Survey, it was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since 1960, when a quake was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people.

Mohammad Kashani, associate professor of civil and earthquake engineering at the University of Southampton, compared the scenes of the aftermath to images from Turkey in February: “The area is full of old and historic buildings, mostly made of masonry. The collapsed reinforced concrete structures.” I saw that… were either old or inferior.

Marrakech will host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank starting October 9. When asked about the planned meetings, an IMF spokesman said: “Our sole focus at this time is on the people of Morocco and the authorities there dealing with this tragedy.” Earthquake in Morocco kills more than 2,000 people, survivors sleep poorly

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