Morocco faces a daunting race against time as rescue efforts intensify to save survivors buried under the rubble following a devastating earthquake that struck on Friday. The catastrophe has left a trail of destruction, with remote areas particularly hard-hit, and has prompted a global response to aid in recovery.
Remote Villages Struggle for Survival
Villagers in the affected regions are tirelessly digging by hand and with shovels, desperately searching for survivors. However, response teams are grappling to transport heavy machinery to these remote locations, hampering the rescue efforts. Tragically, the same tools may soon be required for a different task—preparing graves for the thousands of victims claimed by the quake.
A Desperate Cry for Help
The dire situation on the ground is heart-wrenching. A villager recounted, “People have nothing left. They are starving. Children are in dire need of water. They need help urgently.” The earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.8, struck beneath a cluster of isolated mountainous villages to the south of Marrakesh, marking the deadliest quake in Morocco in over six decades.
The government has reported a staggering death toll, with at least 2,122 people confirmed dead and over 2,421 others injured, many of whom are in critical condition. The powerful tremor caused widespread destruction, leveling homes, blocking roads, and even swaying buildings as far away as the northern coast of the country. Marrakesh’s historic old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, also suffered significant damage.
National Mourning and Relief Efforts
King Mohammed VI declared three days of national mourning in response to the magnitude of the tragedy. The royal palace announced the deployment of civil protection units to bolster supplies of blood, water, food, tents, and blankets. However, the remote nature of some of the worst-affected areas has made immediate relief efforts challenging, especially during the critical hours following the earthquake.
Treacherous Roads and Overwhelmed Hospitals
Fallen rocks have further obstructed already poorly-maintained roads into the High Atlas Mountains, where the worst-affected areas are located. In the small town of Amizmiz, many buildings have been reduced to rubble, and the local hospital, deemed unsafe, has been replaced with makeshift tents. Hospital staff are overwhelmed, with one official stating that around 100 bodies were brought there on Saturday.
Grim Scenes of Desolation
Beyond the hospital, the streets are strewn with debris from destroyed buildings, congested traffic, and individuals who have lost everything to the earthquake. Some have found refuge in tents distributed by the government, while others sleep on rugs laid on the ground in the central square. However, many like Abdelkarim Brouri, 63, who saw his house partially collapse, remain exposed to the elements, pleading for more assistance.
International Aid Efforts
As the severity of the disaster becomes increasingly apparent, international efforts to aid in the recovery have gained momentum. The United Kingdom has received Morocco’s acceptance of its offer to deploy emergency response teams, including rescue specialists, a medical team, search dogs, and equipment. Spain and Qatar have also received formal requests and are sending search and rescue teams. France stands ready to assist upon formal request, while the United States has prepared search and rescue teams for deployment.
Critical Hours Ahead
Caroline Holt of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating that the next two to three days would be critical for finding people trapped under the rubble. Meanwhile, in the village of Tafeghaghte, relatives began burying dozens of the dead in the wake of near-total destruction. The region’s residents are grappling with profound grief and an urgent need for aid.
A Plea for Assistance
As the enormity of the tragedy unfolds, countless individuals like Hakima from the village of Msouna are struggling to survive. She recounted the loss of four relatives in the “catastrophic” shocks, and while neighbors rescued her from the rubble, no official aid had reached her village or nearby settlements. She pleaded, “My family has lost everything—their houses, their possessions, everything. People are going hungry. All that kids desire is water. They require aid.”