By: Megan Hastings
On Sept. 8, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Morocco, marking the deadliest earthquake the country has experienced in 60 years. The original death toll was believed to be 296, but quickly rose to 2,100 with an additional 2,421 injured. The death toll is expected to continue to rise, as some of the injured remain in critical condition. Although the number of fatalities is still being updated, the International Disaster Database, or EM-DAT, data indicates that it might be the second-worst earthquake in North Africa in more than 60 years.
The earthquake struck the High Atlas mountains, 44 miles away from the city of Marrakesh. Most of the buildings in the city were immediately destroyed, including some of its historic buildings. Countries farther away, including Spain, also felt the earthquake. The earthquake left thousands of people homeless, with many finding shelter on the streets. Some villages were wiped out completely, and rescue efforts are ongoing.
The government provided most residents with food and water and the vast majority of the enormous rocks obstructing the steep mountain roads have been removed. However, concerns remain regarding shelter and long-term relief efforts in the most severely affected impoverished mountain regions. The remote village of Tafeghaghte lost over half of its 160 residents.
The Moroccan administration has come under fire for what many perceive as a slow response and seeming unwillingness to accept the barrage of offers to send in professional international teams and aid. But late on Sunday, a spokeswoman responded to that criticism by asserting that authorities “were working to intervene quickly, effectively, and successfully.” Around the city of Taroudant, citizens from surrounding areas loaded automobiles and trucks with supplies and prepared to begin the ascent into the mountains from a gas station. “People from all over Morocco have come to help,” said Said Boukhlik, a local resident. The roads outside of Marrakesh are dotted with tents made to house people whose homes were damaged by the quake.
The distaster prompted authorities to declare three days of mourning. Condolences and aid came in from other countries, including Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, who expressed his solidarity. U.S President Joe Biden also voiced his “sadness about the loss of life and devastation.” Spanish forces sent teams of 30 personnel and four dogs to Morocco, along with Britain and Spain who also sent search-and-rescue personnel.
(Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, Reuters)