Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, September 2023
At Least 2,680 Deaths and 2,500 injuries in Morocco Earthquake, Several Cities and Villages Devastated
September 8-11, 2023
Photos from Morocco earthquake zone show widespread devastation
CBS, SEPTEMBER 11, 2023
An earthquake has sown destruction and devastation in Morocco, where death and injury counts continued to rise early Monday as rescue crews continued digging people out of the rubble, both alive and dead, in villages that were reduced to rubble. Law enforcement and aid workers — Moroccan and international — continued arriving Monday in the region south of the city of Marrakech that was hardest hit by the magnitude-6.8 tremor on Friday night, and several aftershocks.
Thousands of residents were waiting for food, water and electricity, with giant boulders blocking steep mountain roads.
The majority of the deaths — at least 2,680 as of Monday, with another 2.500 injured — were in Marrakech and five provinces near the epicenter, the Interior Ministry reported. Search and rescue and debris removal teams were out with dogs searching for survivors and bodies.
The Friday temblor toppled buildings that couldn't withstand the shaking, trapping people in rubble and sending others fleeing in terror. The area was shaken again Sunday by a magnitude 3.9 aftershock, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
There was little time for mourning as survivors tried to salvage whatever they could from damaged homes.
Khadija Fairouje's face was puffy from crying as she joined relatives and neighbors hauling possessions down rock-strewn streets. She had lost her daughter and three grandsons aged 4 to 11 when their home collapsed while they were sleeping less than 48 hours earlier.
"Nothing's left. Everything fell," said her sister, Hafida Fairouje.
Help was slow to arrive in Amizmiz, where a whole chunk of the town of orange and red sandstone brick homes carved into a mountainside appeared to be missing. A mosque's minaret had collapsed.
"It's a catastrophe,'' said villager Salah Ancheu, 28. "We don't know what the future is. The aid remains insufficient."
The worst destruction was in rural communities that are hard to reach because the roads that snake up the mountainous terrain were covered by fallen rocks.
Flags were lowered across Morocco, as King Mohammed VI ordered three days of national mourning starting Sunday. The army mobilized search and rescue teams, and the king ordered water, food rations and shelters to be sent to those who lost homes.
Some slept on the ground or on benches in a Marrakech park.
Tourists and residents lined up to give blood.
"I did not even think about it twice," Jalila Guerina told The Associated Press, "especially in the conditions where people are dying, especially at this moment when they are needing help, any help." She cited her duty as a Moroccan citizen.
Rescuers backed by soldiers and police searched collapsed homes in the remote town of Adassil, near the epicenter. Military vehicles brought in bulldozers and other equipment to clear roads, MAP reported.
Distraught parents sobbed into phones to tell loved ones about losing their children.
Ambulances took dozens of wounded from the village of Tikht, population 800, to Mohammed VI University Hospital in Marrakech.
Many were trapped under the rubble.
Friday's quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m., lasting several seconds, the USGS said. A magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later, it said. The collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates occurred at a relatively shallow depth, which makes a quake more dangerous.
It was the strongest earthquake to hit the North African country in over 120 years, according to USGS records dating to 1900, but it was not the deadliest. In 1960, a magnitude 5.8 temblor struck near the city of Agadir, killing at least 12,000. That quake prompted Morocco to change construction rules, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors.
Villagers' hopes waning in search for Morocco quake survivors
BBC, 11 September 2023
With reporting in Morocco from Tom Bateman, Alice Cuddy, Carine Torbey, Noura Majdoub, Nick Beake and James Copnall
The number of people killed in Friday's powerful earthquake in Morocco has risen to 2,681, the interior ministry says Rescuers have been using their bare hands to dig for survivors Heavy lifting equipment can't get through roads blocked by boulders to reach remote villages near the epicentre in the Atlas Mountains Many lie in ruins with local people desperately awaiting aid The Moroccan government says it has accepted aid from four countries so far - Britain, Spain, Qatar and the UAE Friday's earthquake, the country's deadliest in 60 years, struck below villages in the High Atlas mountains south of Marrakesh BBC reporter Nick Beake reached the village of Tafeghaghte, where 90 of the 200 residents were confirmed dead, and many others missing
It's been three days since the 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco. Here's what we know so far:
At least 2,681 people have died after the powerful earthquake struck central Morocco on Friday night, the country's Interior Ministry says Many of the deaths are said to be in hard-to-reach mountain areas The Moroccan government has accepted aid from four countries so far - Britain, Spain, Qatar and the UAE Rescuers have been using their bare hands to dig for survivors because heavy lifting equipment can't get through roads blocked by boulders to reach remote villages With a magnitude of 6.8, the earthquake is the biggest to hit central Morocco since before 1900
British tourists in Marrakesh have been telling the BBC about the moment the quake struck and the aftermath.
Samantha and her daughter Jessica are staying in a riad - a traditional Moroccan house.
"Our riad has survived but the roofs of the buildings around us have all crumbled and the house next door has collapsed," Samantha said.
"There is an enormous amount of building debris everywhere and lots of the alleyways are blocked."
She said tourists wanted to get home safely but "flight prices are rising exorbitantly by the hour".
Caitlin and Jamie Faulkner were at a party when the quake struck. Caitlin said "we thought they'd turned the music back on. It sounded like bass but with no music". Then the power went out.
At 1.30am they were able to return to their hotel. "When we woke up, every sun lounger was filled with pillows and duvets. A lot of people slept outside," Caitlin said.
Clara Bennett, a student, said "I was just brushing my teeth and the whole floor shook. There was a roar. It was terrifying".
Luckily, the riad where she was staying with her parents and brother was not damaged. But neighbouring buildings had collapsed.
"There was a great sense of community, people carrying disabled people, handing out water and food," she said.
There are formal rescue teams with heavy machinery and a sniffer dog leading the search for Fatima and her daughter.
It’s slow work and a small crowd including neighbours and journalists gathered to watch, but were moved back by authorities.
We’ve been talking to Fatima’s neighbour, Said.
He says it will be “very difficult” to find her, saying she lived on the ground floor of a three-storey building. But he is waiting here along with other neighbours in hope.
“She’s a very good woman, a very good neighbour. Always helping.”
A military helicopter has just flown overhead and into the mountains.
Many of the communities worst affected by this disaster live deep in the mountains, and inaccessible roads mean that air support is the only way that crucial aid is able to reach them.
Death toll rises to 2,681 - state TV
The death toll from Friday's earthquake has risen to 2,681 and the number of people injured currently stands at 2,501, according to state TV in Morocco
Spanish rescue team say "hope is still there"
Europa Press via GettyCopyright: Europa Press via Getty Firefighters in Spain preparing to join rescue efforts in MoroccoImage caption: Firefighters in Spain preparing to join rescue efforts in Morocco
A rescue team from Spain’s Military Emergencies Unit (UME) has arrived in Morocco with a canine unit and microcameras, in the hope that more survivors can be found in the rubble.
Albert Vasquez, the unit's communications officer, warned that it would be “very difficult to find people alive after three days" but added, “hope is still there”.
A Spanish team of firefighters and medical personnel have also been coordinating their rescue efforts in the devastated town of Talat N'Yaaqoub, which is situated in the remote Atlas Mountains, making it much harder to rescue people quickly.
Head of the Spanish team, Annika Coll, explains; "The big difficulty is in zones remote and difficult to access, like here, but the injured are choppered out.”
Spain is one of only four countries that Morocco has currently accepted aid from.
Authorities accept only limited international help
Reuters Qatar sent search and rescue personnel on a military cargo planeImage caption: Qatar sent search and rescue personnel on a military cargo plane
Almost as soon as news broke of Friday's earthquake in Morocco, offers of help from around the world came in.
But the country has so far been selective, accepting support from just Spain, Qatar, the UK and the United Arab Emirates, and there have been questions over why Morocco has been slow to accept other offers.
French help is on standby but the head of one rescue charity, Secouristes sans Frontieres, said his aid workers had not been given the go-ahead from the Moroccan government, the AFP news agency reports.
Algeria, which cut diplomatic ties with its North African neighbour two years ago, said it could send 80 specialised rescue workers from its civil protection force.
There have also been offers from the US, Tunisia, Turkey and Taiwan among others.
But the decision over what assistance to welcome has got caught up in questions of sovereignty and geopolitics.
Morocco says it wants to maintain control and "a lack of co-ordination... would be counterproductive".
But government critic and activist Maati Mounjib has said it is the wrong response and it is "really an errror [to insist on] to insist on sovereignty and national pride."
"This is not the moment to refuse because the aid is essential," he told the BBC's Newsday.
One of the most important historical sites in the High Atlas mountains has been severely damaged in the earthquake.
The Tinmel Mosque, an earth-and-stone mosque built by the Almohad dynasty, medieval rulers that conquered North Africa and Spain, now stands with crumbled walls, a half-fallen tower and is littered with debris.
A Moroccan Culture Ministry source told the Reuters news agency, "the ministry has decided to restore it and will make budget for it", but did not provide further details.
All of my colleagues have lost someone - hotel worker
The feelings of loss and devastation are shared throughout the communities that live and work in the Atlas Mountains, a local hotel employee tells the BBC.
Mohcine Fala works at a hotel in a village called Marigha. One of his colleagues lost eight members of her family in the earthquake, including her seven-year-old son.
"She's there just in a little tent with the rest of her family waiting to find her son," Fala says.
"Totally, totally horrible feeling that someone of your family is just buried under the ground," he adds.
Fala says everyone is doing what they can do help out, and there is a shared sense of family throughout the community.
He says all of his colleagues have lost someone.
"All of them are my families," he says, adding, "I'm sharing these same feelings".
Hope waning in three-day search for mother and daughter
Reporting from the quake-hit village of Ourigane
In Ourigane, desperate search efforts are underway to rescue a 40-year-old woman and her teenager daughter whose home collapsed in the earthquake.
Relatives have gathered nearby, praying that Fatima and her daughter Hajar will be rescued.
But when I ask how hopeful they are, all shake their heads, saying it has been three days now. Fatima’s husband and son were pulled from the rubble and taken to hospital, but died there.
'We're expecting traumas of varying degrees'
Tom Godfrey Tom and his team landed this morning in MarrakeshImage caption: Tom and his team landed this morning in Marrakesh
Tom Godfrey is the team lead for UK-Med, a charity and rescue team. They have been invited by the Moroccan government to help in the country with the response to the earthquake.
The team of four, whose trip is being funded by the UK's Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, landed this morning in Marrakesh and are currently on the road to Amizmiz.
He said: “When we arrive there we are going to link up with the central rescue team and work with local health authorities.
"We’re also in touch with the ministry of health and UN coordination to figure out how we can best facilitate and establish where the needs are greatest.”
The team consists of Godfrey as lead, an emergency nurse, a water and sanitation specialist and a logistician.
Godfrey also explained that there are more team members in the UK ready to be deployed, but they’re waiting for the green light from the Moroccan government.
“We are the advance party trying to establish how we can help. Then if we get the go ahead, we will send over further people.
"We don’t want to bring in additional capacity unless the Moroccan government needs it.”
Tom described Marrakesh as “functioning fairly-well” and they didn’t go into the old town. But he said: “The worst impact is towards the southwest. In the villages the health situation is worst there.
"We know that earthquakes can affect remote areas entirely differently.”
Tom explained that the injuries they’re expecting are traumas of varying degrees but soft tissue injuries to begin with and potentially diseases in the longer term.
He added: “We’re really glad to have the opportunity to help and bring added value. We’re feeling eager to get stuck in.”
'Moroccans are doing what Moroccans do best'
Dr. Clare McCaughey, a GP based in Marrakesh, has been speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live.
She says private clinics like hers have "opened their doors" and will "provide care to any earthquake victims free of charge".
“Moroccans are doing what Moroccans do best," she says.
Dr. McCaughey says her children have spent the weekend worrying about aftershocks and she is trying to reassure them that they are safe.
“We’re trying to go on as normal but there is a lot of fear," she says.
"People are still sleeping on the streets because they don’t want to go back to their homes.”
She tells the BBC it has been "incredible" to see the outpouring of support from the local community.
"There are huge trucks going up to the mountains, but also people [taking their cars] to the supermarkets and getting them up the hill to the people," she says.
Algeria is offering Morocco 80 specialised rescue workers from its Civil Protection forces to help the country with its relief efforts following Friday’s deadly earthquake.
The package of help includes a canine unit, medical personnel as well as emergency supplies in the form of tents, beds and blankets, a government spokesperson has said.
Algeria had already said they would open their air space to flights carrying humanitarian aid, despite cutting off relations with Morocco two years ago.
The two nations have a long history of tension, tied to the countries' competing claims over the disputed Western Sahara.
Reporting from the quake-hit village of Ourigane
We’ve arrived in Ourigane. The village is beautiful, surrounded by rolling mountains and olive trees.
But as we drive further inside, we see collapsed walls and houses.
In front of me as I write is a collapsed garage, with a van underneath.
Ambulances are passing through and there are Moroccan military personnel here.
The whole country of Morocco has mobilised to help communities devastated by the earthquake, a British journalist living in the High Atlas Mountains has told the BBC.
Alice Morrison spoke to BBC News a little earlier from the market town of Asni, where tents have been erected by the government to house those who have lost everything in the quake.
A field hospital has been set up nearby and the army has mobilised; as one soldier told Morrison, "this is our national duty, but it's more than a duty".
Helicopters can be heard flying overhead, trying to reach isolated villages deeper in the mountains.
Travelling to quake-hit village of Ourigane
We managed to find some petrol, though the station has limited the amount it will give to each car due to high demand.
Just outside the petrol station, people were giving out packages of bread and water to earthquake survivors.
Now we’ve just stopped at the side of the road where we can see a mountainside village badly damaged by the earthquake.
We speak to a group of people staying in a makeshift tent and ask if they are victims of the earthquake. They say they are not but that their son is from that village and his home is completely destroyed.
They have travelled from Marrakesh to support him and say they will stay as long as he needs them to.
'Shops and bars are open as usual' in Marrakesh's old city
A businessman based in Marrakesh's Medina says the historic centre of the city has escaped with "relatively little damage" and much of normal life is continuing.
Colin Bosworth, who runs a property company, says he has been out and about in the old city and much of it is unaffected.
Speaking to BBC News, he acknowledges that some older buildings built with traditional materials have collapsed, but also says "shops and bars are open as usual".
Bosworth says when the earthquake struck on Friday night, it felt like an explosion had hit his home which started to "shake violently".
Quote Message: The wife and child were upstairs. We all came down into the courtyard. A policeman came into the street and shouted to everybody to get out of the alleyways and up into the car parks."
The wife and child were upstairs. We all came down into the courtyard. A policeman came into the street and shouted to everybody to get out of the alleyways and up into the car parks."
After carrying his daughter to safety and finding cushions for her to sleep on, they returned to their house the next morning to assess the damage.
Fortunately, there was "nothing too serious", he says, just some minor damage to a wall and a fallen chimney which he said can be "repaired pretty quickly".
But he says his "heart goes out" to those who have been more severely affected.
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