Morocco in Mourning: Massive Earthquake Claims Over 2000 Lives


Morocco plunges into three days of mourning after a catastrophic 6.8-magnitude earthquake leaves over 2,000 dead, many others injured, and countless homeless. The calamity, which unfolded on Friday, has been described as the most disastrous in the past six decades. It shook the footprints of a remote mountainous area some 45 miles south of Marrakesh, resonating with destructive impact across the country, all the way to its northern coastline.

Official reports indicate a death toll escalating past 2,122, with more than 2,421 people injured, several critically. Terrified residents of Marrakesh spent the night outdoors, uneasy about the prospect of returning to their homes. In response to this disaster, military forces and emergency services mobilized, rushing to reach remote villages where additional victims are anticipated.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco called an emergency disaster response meeting on Saturday afternoon, proclaiming three days of national mourning and mobilizing civil protection units. These units were tasked to replenish blood banks and ensure the supply of vital resources such as water, food, tents, and blankets to the afflicted areas, the palace announced.

Omar Bajjou, a resident of a village near Asni (at the foot of the Atlas mountains, approximately 30 miles south of Marrakesh), recounted the terror of the quake, which propelled him out of bed. He likened the earthquake’s power to an airplane crash landing on his roof. The village was inundated by chaos: “There was dust everywhere and the sound of screams,” he said.

Survivors hustled to rescue their neighbours from the wreckage of their homes. Despite their efforts, however, some victims were already dead when found. The grim discovery of five fatalities from their building alone amplified the villagers’ fear and trauma. For two days, the residents stayed outside, without water or electricity, too petrified to return home amidst the prospect of potential aftershocks and additional building collapses.

Amplifying the challenge of relief efforts is the area’s difficult terrain, even without considering the extensive earthquake debris. “It’s going to take a miracle to get immediate aid there,” said Samia Errazzouki, an expert in the history and governance of the Moroccan state at Stanford University in California.

The disaster-struck region is home to Morocco’s marginalised Amazigh community, also known as Berbers, and has been historically susceptible to earthquakes. Aid relief has already been offered by various countries including Israel, France, Spain, Italy, and the United States. Even neighbouring Algeria, despite tense relations with Morocco, has opened its airspace — which had been closed for two years — to facilitate transport of humanitarian aid and injured victims.

Despite the extent of death and destruction, some quarters are questioning the pace of the emergency response. Quiet criticisms have been raised about the king’s governing from his residence in France, and the potential loss of crucial early response time as approval from the palace was awaited.

The aftermath of the earthquake caused significant damage in Marrakesh, the largest city closest to the quake’s epicentre, shaking even the city’s famed 12th-century Koutoubia mosque. Heritage restoration in the Unesco world heritage site is projected to take months, if not years.

As Morocco faces the massive task of rebuilding, its northern shoreline, accustomed to seismic activity, remains vulnerable. As French active tectonics specialist Philippe Vernant explains, the quake’s aftershocks, though less powerful, could topple already weakened buildings.

Despite the catastrophic event, national resilience radiates in full force, with global assistance at the ready to aid in the monumental task of recovery and rebuilding. Tragic as the situation is, it also represents an opportunity for unity and shared humanitarian endeavor, underlying the shared vulnerability and capacity to rally of humankind.


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