Morocco said at least 2,901 people have been killed in the nation’s most powerful earthquake in a century, as last-ditch efforts continue to find survivors days later.
(Bloomberg) — Morocco said at least 2,901 people have been killed in the nation’s most powerful earthquake in a century, as last-ditch efforts continue to find survivors days later.
Foreign and Moroccan teams kept up their search on Tuesday of remote areas around the High Atlas mountains, the epicenter of the Sept. 8 temblor. The disaster in Morocco also damaged parts of Marrakech, one of the country’s top tourist destinations. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that 5,530 people had been injured.
“Time is quickly running out,” said Borja Gonzalez de Escalada, a partner of Washington-based Project Hope, an aid group that has deployed rescue dogs in the quake zone.
King Mohammed VI visited Marrakech’s university hospital Tuesday to check on some of the wounded survivors and donate blood, footage from state television SNRT showed.
The earthquake was the kingdom’s deadliest since 1960 and it dealt a damaging blow to a country that paints itself as an island of stability in North Africa. Survivors in devastated villages in the High Atlas have been venting increasing anger over the perceived slowness of domestic rescue efforts and aid supplies. Morocco has officially accepted only a handful from the dozens of international offers of support.
Two days after the earthquake struck, a devastating storm lashed nearby Libya. Two dams collapsed in the aftermath, triggering floods that killed at least 2,300, almost all in one city on the Mediterranean Sea.
The Moroccan government made some of its first pledges for the recovery on Monday, including financial assistance for reconstructing homes. At least 30,000 houses, 500 schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure need to be rebuilt, Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch said in remarks carried by local media, including Hespress.com and Le360.
Authorities will unveil fuller details as early as this week, Akhannouch said, citing instructions from the king. Temporary housing will also be established for those in need, he said.
Reconstruction may cost between 30 billion dirhams ($3 billion) to 50 billion dirhams, according to Abdelouahed El Jai, a former central bank director and professor at the National Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics in Rabat, the capital.
The quake creates “a new crisis” for an economy that was starting to recover from the dual shockwaves of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the effects of the Covid pandemic on tourism, El Jai said in an interview.
The rebuilding of the Atlantic coastal town of Agadir, where an earthquake six decades ago claimed about 12,000 lives, may have been “a walk in the park compared to what we are dealing with today,” El Jai said, given the scale and poor accessibility of the area affected by Friday’s quake.
Without significant donations from Gulf Arab and Western allies to cover the costs, Morocco may need to borrow more, which would increase its budget deficit, he added.
There were fresh aid pledges on Tuesday, with the Red Cross launching an appeal to raise 100 million euros ($107 million). The philanthropic arm of Binance Holdings Ltd. announced it will airdrop as much as $3 million in BNB coins to its users “identified as living in the areas affected by the tragedy.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund estimated a third of the 300,000 people made homeless are children, with no access to schools and hospitals.
“There are a lot of orphaned kids,” said Adeline Hazan, who heads UNICEF France. “There is also a lot of displaced children who don’t know what happened to their parents,” she added in remarks to FranceInfo.
Many families have lost everything, said Project Hope’s de Escalada. “People are displaced and living on the streets. Access to medical care is scarce, pushing people to embark on a three-hour journey to Marrakech for treatment.”
The destruction has extended to Morocco’s rich cultural heritage. Marrakech’s Unesco-listed center was hit, while local media reported that major historical sights elsewhere in the quake zone, including the 12th-century Tinmel mosque, Saadi tombs and Badii Palace, also sustained serious damage.
(Adds details on the king’s visit to the wounded in paragraph 5)
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