Amizmiz, Morocco, Sept 9 (The Street Press) – After Morocco’s strongest earthquake in over 60 years struck, over 2,000 survivors spent a night outdoors in the High Atlas Mountains. This earthquake caused immense destruction in villages.
People in the area were desperately looking for survivors who were trapped in the debris of houses made from mud bricks, stone, and rough wood. The earthquake, which happened late on Friday, caused severe damage, including the toppling of mosque minarets. Even the historic old city of Marrakech was not spared and suffered significant destruction.
According to the Interior Ministry, a tragic toll of 2,012 lives lost and 2,059 people injured, with 1,404 in critical condition, was reported. The earthquake, as noted by the U.S. Geological Survey, measured at a magnitude of 6.8 and had its epicenter about 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech.
In the village of Amizmiz, near the epicenter, rescue workers were tirelessly sifting through debris using their hands. Narrow streets were obstructed by fallen masonry, and outside a hospital, approximately 10 bodies were covered in blankets while grieving family members stood nearby.
Mohamed Azaw, speaking to Reuters, recounted the terrifying moment: “When I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet and the house leaning, I rushed to get my kids out. But my neighbors couldn’t. Unfortunately, no one was found alive in that family. The father and son were found dead, and they are still searching for the mother and the daughter.”
Rescue teams were perched on the collapsed floors of a building in Amizmiz, with fragments of carpet and furniture sticking out from the wreckage. A long line of people waited outside the only open shop to get essential supplies. Highlighting the difficulties faced by rescuers, large boulders blocked the road from Amizmiz to a nearby village.
In the area of Asni, located about 40 km south of Marrakech, nearly all the houses were damaged, and villagers were getting ready to spend the night outdoors. Food was scarce because many kitchens were crushed when the roofs collapsed, as reported by villager Mohamed Ouhammo to Reuters.
Montasir Itri, another resident of Asni, informed Reuters that they were actively searching for survivors. He said, “Our neighbors are trapped under the rubble, and people in the village are making every effort to rescue them using the resources available.”
The village of Tansghart, situated in the Ansi area along the road from Marrakech into the High Atlas, suffered the most severe damage witnessed by Reuters. Its picturesque houses, perched on a steep hillside, were shattered by the powerful earthquake. Even the ones that remained standing had portions of walls or plaster missing, and two mosque minarets had collapsed.
Abdellatif Ait Bella, a laborer, lay on the ground, his injuries causing him to struggle to move or speak. His head was bandaged due to wounds from falling debris. His wife, Saida Bodchich, expressed their dire situation to Reuters, saying, “We have no home to take him to, and we haven’t had any food since yesterday.” With their sole breadwinner severely injured, their family of six faced an uncertain future. She added, “We can only place our trust in God.”
The village was already in mourning, having lost ten lives, including two teenage girls, as reported by one resident to Reuters.
The earthquake’s tremors were so strong that they were felt as far away as Huelva and Jaen in southern Spain. The World Health Organization reported that over 300,000 people were affected in Marrakech and the surrounding areas.
RUNNING FOR SHELTER
Street camera footage from Marrakech captured the moment when the earth started to shake. Men suddenly looked around, jumped up, and some ran for shelter into alleyways, fleeing as dust and debris swirled around them.
In the heart of the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a mosque minaret in Jemaa al-Fna Square had collapsed. In the densely populated old city, some houses had crumbled, and residents used their bare hands to clear debris while awaiting heavy equipment, according to resident Id Waaziz Hassan.
Morocco announced three days of national mourning, during which the national flag would be flown at half-staff across the country, as declared by the royal court.
The Moroccan armed forces also pledged to deploy rescue teams to provide affected areas with essential resources such as clean drinking water, food supplies, tents, and blankets.
Turkey, which had suffered a devastating earthquake earlier in February claiming over 50,000 lives, expressed solidarity with Morocco and offered assistance.
Despite diplomatic tensions between Algeria and Morocco in 2021, Algeria announced its willingness to open airspace for humanitarian and medical flights, demonstrating a humanitarian response to the earthquake.
The earthquake, recorded at a depth of 18.5 km, can be more destructive than deeper quakes of the same magnitude. This event marked Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 when an estimated 12,000 lives were lost, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Mohammad Kashani, an associate professor of structural and earthquake engineering at the University of Southampton, noted the similarity between the scenes in Morocco and those witnessed in Turkey in February. He highlighted the prevalence of old and historical masonry buildings in the affected area, some of which were either old or built to substandard standards, contributing to the damage.
It’s worth noting that Marrakech was scheduled to host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank from October 9, and this earthquake may have significant implications for those plans.
In response to inquiries about the planned meetings in Marrakech, an IMF spokesperson stated, “Our sole focus at this time is on the people of Morocco and the authorities who are dealing with this tragedy,” as reported by Reuters.