By SAM METZ (Associated Press)
An earthquake has caused destruction and devastation in Morocco, where the death toll and injuries continue to rise after rescue workers dug out living and dead people from villages reduced to rubble.
Law enforcement and relief workers – both Moroccan and international – have arrived in the region south of the city of Marrakesh, which was hardest hit by the magnitude 6.8 quake and several aftershocks on Friday evening. In most places, residents have been provided with food and water and most of the huge boulders blocking steep mountain roads have been cleared. However, concerns remain about housing and long-term recovery efforts in the impoverished mountainous regions that have been hardest hit.
Here’s what you need to know:
The epicenter was high in the Atlas Mountains, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Marrakesh in Al Haouz province. The region is largely rural – made up of red rock mountains, scenic gorges, and sparkling streams and lakes. The earthquake shook most of Morocco and caused injuries and deaths in other provinces, including Marrakesh, Taroudant and Chichaoua.
According to Morocco’s 2014 census, 1,643 of the 2,901 deaths reported Tuesday occurred in Al Haouz, a region with around 570,000 residents. In certain villages such as Tafeghaghte, more than half of the population died, according to residents. The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people were affected by Friday evening’s earthquakes.
The people speak a combination of Arabic and Tachelhit, Morocco’s most common indigenous language. Mud and mud-brick villages built into mountainsides were destroyed.
Most of the dead have already been buried. The government reports 2,501 injuries.
Morocco has sent ambulances, rescue teams and soldiers to the region to help with the emergency response. Aid groups said the government had not issued a comprehensive call for help and had accepted only limited foreign aid.
The Interior Ministry said it was accepting international search and rescue assistance from non-governmental organizations as well as Spain, Qatar, Britain and the United Arab Emirates, bypassing offers from French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden.
The Moroccan government said poorly coordinated assistance “would be counterproductive,” frustrating rescue teams.
Experts say the most direct way to help those affected in the city of Marrakesh and rural areas in the Atlas Mountains is to donate to organizations already working on the ground. This includes the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which quickly released $1.1 million from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to support the Moroccan Red Crescent’s relief efforts in the country. They also include World Central Kitchen, Doctors Without Borders and GlobalGiving, which have set up a Morocco earthquake relief fund and have raised more than $500,000 as of Tuesday morning.
The earthquake caused parts of the walls surrounding Marrakech’s old town, a 12th-century UNESCO World Heritage site, to crack and collapse. Videos showed dust rising from parts of the Koutoubia Mosque, one of the city’s best-known historical sites.
The city is Morocco’s most visited tourist destination and is known for its palaces, spice markets, madrasas and the Jemaa El Fna – the noisy square full of food vendors and musicians.
The earthquake also caused devastating damage to important historical sites in the High Atlas. These include a 12th-century mosque at Tinmel, built by the Almohad dynasty under Ibn Toumert, a 19th-century kasbah near Talat N’Yakoub, and a significant mosque and pilgrimage site at Moulay Brahim.
“While most tourists know about famous monuments in big cities, smaller villages have their own monuments that have suffered from marginalization for decades,” said Brahim El Guabli, a Williams College professor whose research focuses on the politics of preservation. “The entire Moroccan High Atlas is dotted with important historical monuments.”
Friday’s earthquake was the strongest in Morocco in over a century. Although such strong tremors are rare, they are not the deadliest in the country: just over 60 years ago, Morocco was rocked by a magnitude 5.8 quake that killed over 12,000 people on the west coast and the city of Agadir southwest of Marrakech was destroyed. This quake led to changes to building regulations in Morocco, but many buildings – especially country houses – are not built to withstand such force.
According to the US Geological Survey, there has not been an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 6.0 within 310 miles (500 kilometers) of Friday’s quake in at least a century. Earthquakes are more common in northern Morocco, including tremors of magnitude 6.4 in 2004 and magnitude 6.3 in 2016.
Elsewhere this year, a magnitude 7.8 quake that struck Syria and Turkey killed more than 50,000 people. Most of the most devastating earthquakes in recent history have had a magnitude greater than 7.0, including a 2015 quake in Nepal that killed over 8,800 people and a 2008 quake in China that killed 87,500 people lives came.
Emergency operations are likely to continue as teams cross mountain roads to reach villages hardest hit by the earthquake. Many communities lack food, water, electricity and shelter. But once aid troops and soldiers leave, the challenges facing hundreds of thousands living in the area are likely to remain.
Members of the Moroccan Parliament met on Monday to vote at the request of King Mohammed VI. to establish a government fund for earthquake relief. Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch said afterwards that the government was committed to compensating the victims and helping them rebuild. Enaam Mayara, the president of Morocco’s Chamber of Deputies, said rebuilding some affected areas would likely take five to six years.
Associated Press writers Jesse Bedayn in Denver, Angela Charlton in Paris, Glenn Gamboa in New York and Will Weissert in Washington contributed to this report.
https://www.twincities.com/2023/09/13/what-to-know-about-the-morocco-earthquake-and-the-efforts-to-help/ What you should know about the Morocco earthquake and relief efforts – Twin Cities