Moroccan authorities raced to rescue possible survivors after the most powerful earthquake to hit the kingdom in over a century killed more than 2,000 people.
(Bloomberg) — Moroccan authorities raced to rescue possible survivors after the most powerful earthquake to hit the kingdom in over a century killed more than 2,000 people.
Rescue efforts were complicated by the remote mountain location of the hard hit al-Haouz region. The military has deployed specialized rescue teams, engineers, logistics centers, supplies and field hospitals. The area around the quake’s epicenter is home to around 300,000 people and sits about 75 kilometers (47 miles) south of the historic tourist center of Marrakech, which also sustained damage.
The earthquake, which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, struck late Friday night, devastating a region dotted by small towns and villages where buildings and homes are largely constructed of mud brick and adobe. Roads to those villages snake perilously up the mountains, adding to the logistical challenges of finding and aiding survivors.
More than 36 hours after the temblor, the North African kingdom has yet to officially accept offers of international assistance, including sorely needed first responders and search dogs, made by the US, France, Turkey, Ukraine and others. King Mohammed VI last night thanked nations that offered help without saying if they will be accepted.
As authorities raced to find survivors from the disaster that also left more than 1,400 critically wounded and tens of thousands homeless, the government ordered a prayer for the missing to be held at all mosques nationwide on Sunday. The monarch had also decreed three days of national mourning. The king, who was abroad at the time of earthquake, called for donations from citizens and local businesses.
The quake’s epicenter was near the town of Oukaïmedene, a ski resort in the High Atlas mountains. The area is a tourist favorite, dotted with villages that are tucked into the mountains and offer a tranquil respite from the cities.
The quake was the deadliest to hit Morocco in more than 60 years and the strongest in around 120. It comes at a difficult time for the kingdom where the economy is under pressure from the combined effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and more frequent and severe droughts that are hitting the important farming sector.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are slated to hold their next annual meetings in Marrakech, though it’s unclear if plans will now change given the devastation to the area. The conference would mark the first time the gatherings were held in Africa in 50 years.
Residents and tourists posted videos on social media showing some buildings reduced to rubble. Parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city in Marrakech, a UNESCO World Heritage site, were also damaged, as were some hotels and other infrastructure.
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