A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.0 struck Morocco on Friday, triggering widespread destruction and leaving many people injured or trapped. The quake, which occurred at 23:11 local time (22:11 GMT), was felt across the country, from the bustling city of Casablanca to the historic city of Marrakesh. The impact of the earthquake has been severe, with numerous buildings collapsing or sustaining extensive damage.
The country’s royal palace has declared three days of national mourning in response to the tragedy. Additionally, the Moroccan armed forces have initiated rescue operations, dispatching teams to provide essential aid such as clean drinking water, food supplies, tents, and blankets to the affected areas. Many of the victims are believed to be in remote mountainous regions, making rescue efforts particularly challenging.
The epicenter of the earthquake was located in the High Atlas Mountains, approximately 71 kilometers (44 miles) southwest of Marrakesh. The seismic event has left a trail of devastation in its wake, with rescue teams working tirelessly to search for survivors and recover bodies. Hospitals in Marrakesh have been inundated with injured individuals, and authorities have appealed to residents to donate blood to assist the injured.
The earthquake has had a particularly devastating impact on Marrakesh, where some buildings have collapsed, and extensive damage has been reported in parts of the Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dust enveloped the minaret of the historic Kutubiyya mosque, a prominent tourist attraction near the old city’s main square, while the historic Jemaa el Fnaa mosque partially collapsed.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, residents fled the affected areas in panic. Rashid Ben Arabi, a resident of Marrakesh, described the chaotic scene as people rushed to leave the city amidst darkness and a power outage. He recounted how he drove to the town of Amizmiz, approximately 56 kilometers (35 miles) from Marrakesh, to check on his parents’ well-being.
Upon arriving in Amizmiz, Rashid found his parents safe but among a crowd of people who had taken to the streets, fearing severe aftershocks. The Moroccan government had advised residents not to re-enter their homes for fear of further tremors. Indeed, a 4.9-magnitude aftershock occurred just 19 minutes after the initial earthquake.
The extent of the damage in remote mountain villages near the epicenter remains unclear, but it is expected to be widespread. The earthquake, with its epicenter in a remote area of the High Atlas Mountains, was relatively shallow. As a result, simple structures in these villages may not have withstood the tremors. Given their remoteness, it may take some time to assess casualties and damage in these areas.
The earthquake was not confined to Morocco; it was also felt in neighboring Algeria. Fortunately, Algerian officials reported no significant damage or casualties. Despite severed diplomatic ties between the two nations in 2021, Algeria offered to open its airspace for humanitarian and medical flights to assist Morocco in this time of need.
The international community has rallied to support Morocco in the wake of this disaster. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at the G20 summit in Delhi, pledged that the world would come to Morocco’s aid. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez expressed solidarity and support, while French President Emmanuel Macron offered assistance. U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky conveyed their solidarity with Morocco, and Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences and solidarity with the Moroccan people.
As Morocco grapples with the aftermath of this devastating earthquake, the support and solidarity of the international community are a source of hope. The challenges of rescue, relief, and rebuilding are substantial, but the determination to recover and rebuild is even greater. Morocco’s resilience in the face of this tragedy is a testament to the strength and unity of its people.