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Morocco earthquake: Death toll, extent of damage, rescue efforts. What we know so far

WorldMorocco earthquake: Death toll, extent of damage, rescue efforts. What we know so far

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At least 2,122 people were killed and 2,421 others injured after the strongest earthquake in a century hit Morocco on Friday. As per the United Nations, at least 300,000 people in the North African country have been affected by the quake.

A person stands near damaged houses in Tafeghaghte, a remote village of the High Atlas mountains, following a powerful earthquake in Morocco, September 10, 2023. (Reuters)
A person stands near damaged houses in Tafeghaghte, a remote village of the High Atlas mountains, following a powerful earthquake in Morocco, September 10, 2023. (Reuters)

Rescue operations are underway after buildings were reduced to rubble as the powerful quake hit the country.

The interior ministry released a statement saying, “The Moroccan authorities have carefully assessed the needs on the ground, bearing in mind that a lack of coordination in such cases would be counterproductive.”

Here is what we know so far:

When did the earthquake happen and where?

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said that the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11pm on Friday, with shaking that lasted several seconds. Morocco’s National Seismic Monitoring and Alert Network measured it at 7 on the Richter scale.

The US agency had also reported a magnitude-4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later.

The epicentre of the Morocco earthquake was high in the Atlas Mountains roughly 70 kilometers south of Marrakech, economic hub of Morocco. It was also near Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa and Oukaimeden, a popular Moroccan ski resort.

The USGS said the epicentre was 18.5 kilometres below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency put it at 8 kilometres down.

Strength of the Earthquake

The magnitude of the earthquake was 6.8, which is considered ‘strong’. The quake hit at a shallow depth which made its impact stronger and more destructive.

As per USGS, the earthquakes in the region were uncommon but not unexpected. CNN reported that since 1900s, nine earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have hit the region but none had a magnitude of more than 6.

This is the deadlistest earthquake to hit Morocco since 1960, when a quake hit town of Agadir and killed around 12,000 people damaging the whole city which has been rebuilt since then.

The tremors of the quake were felt as far as coastal cities including country’s capital Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira and Agadir. Neighbouring countries Portugal and Algeria also felt the quake’s tremors.

What areas have been damaged the most?

The earthquake caused damage to Marrakesh’s largest mosque built in the 12th century, Koutoubia Mosque, as well as the red walls that surround the old city and are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Morocco quake also damaged a historical mosque, Tinmel Mosque, in the High Atlas Mountains — which was built by a medieval dynasty which conquered North Africa and Spain.

Along with this several buildings have been irrevocably damaged and as per eyewitnesses several villages and towns around the Atlas Mountains have been destroyed, CNN reported.

Almost all homes in Asni village have been damaged. Over a 1,000 people have died in Al Haouz province and around 400 people have lost their lives in Taroudant City of Morocco. Tafeghaghte, a village around 59 kilometres away from the epicentre, has been completely destroyed.

Marrakesh, one of the largest cities of Morocco which is a tourist hub, has also faced severe damage.

How international government responded?

Morocco on Sunday announced that it had accepted aid from four nations — Spain, Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — as several countries came forward and offered support and assistance to severely-hit country.

As per AFP, the interior ministry said that Moroccan authorities responded favourably “at this stage” to offers from these four nations “to send search and rescue teams”. The ministry added that foreign teams were coordinating with authorities, adding that only four countries’ offers had been accepted as “a lack of coordination could be counterproductive”.

Tunisia has sent 50 paramedics and specialised unit personnel along with searching dogs, advanced monitoring devices and drones. Qatar has sent medical and rescue teams.

A Spanish military and rescue team of 56 officers and four dogs reached Morocco on Sunday. Another team of 30 people and four dogs from Spain was also heading to Morocco.

The United States sent a disaster experts’ team, whereas theUnited Kingdom deployed 60 rescue specialists and four dogs. France has pledged 2 million euros to Morocco.

Israel’s national medical and disaster emergency service Magen David Adom has also representatives. Oman also ordered rescue teams, urgent relief and medical aid to be sent to Morocco.

Several other countries like Taiwan and Turkey said that teams were ready to be deployed if Morocco required more assistance and aid.

Morocco government’s response

The Morocco government has said it had activated all the available resources in order to tackle the earthquake and urged the people to avoid panicking.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI ordered the setting up of a relief commission for the distribution of aid to survivors, including those who lost their parents and homes in the quake.

He also announced a three-day national mourning period and had urged mosques across the country to hold funeral prayers, Janazah, on Sunday.

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