Rescuers in Morocco are engaged in a race against time to reach people trapped beneath the debris following the devastating 6.8-magnitude earthquake that has left a trail of destruction in its wake. This powerful quake, the strongest ever recorded in Morocco, struck on Friday at 11:11 pm (2211 GMT) in an area of the Atlas mountain range located 72 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of the city of Marrakesh. The impact was felt in several coastal cities, including Rabat, Casablanca, and Essaouira, as well as Agadir, which was previously rebuilt in the 1960s following a catastrophic tremor.
Historic City Hit
Marrakesh, known for its sprawling medina and a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site featuring ochre-colored palaces and markets, suffered significant damage in the earthquake. The city’s 12th-century ramparts partially collapsed, prompting some residents to spend the past two nights camping on the vast Jemaa el-Fna square, fearing their homes might also crumble.
Atlas Villages Crumple
However, the most severe destruction occurred in the remote villages of the High Atlas, particularly in the provinces of Al-Haouz and Taroudant. The mud-brick villages of Tafeghaghte and Moulay Brahim, close to the quake’s epicenter, were almost entirely obliterated. In Tafeghaghte alone, about 70 people out of a population of approximately 100 were buried on Saturday.
The earthquake has already claimed a tragic toll, with at least 2,012 people losing their lives and 2,059 others sustaining injuries. Of the injured, 1,404 are in critical condition, according to the latest figures from Morocco’s interior ministry. The majority of the deaths were reported in Al-Haouz province, with 1,293 victims, followed by Taroudant, where at least 452 lives were lost. A French national was also among the casualties.
A massive rescue operation is currently underway, with efforts focused on reaching the hardest-hit areas, including the remote mountain villages. Leading these rescue efforts are the Moroccan Red Crescent and the national army. Caroline Holt of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies stressed the critical nature of the next 24 to 48 hours in terms of saving lives.
Spain has responded to an official request from Morocco by dispatching 56 rescue workers, along with drilling equipment and search dogs. Several other countries, including European Union members, Britain, the United States, Turkey, and Israel, have expressed solidarity with Morocco and offered assistance.
In response to this devastating earthquake, Morocco has declared three days of national mourning. The announcement followed a meeting presided over by King Mohammed VI as the nation comes to terms with the immense loss and devastation caused by this unprecedented natural disaster.
Sources By Agencies