MOROCCO: The Atlas Mountains region of Morocco was struck by a catastrophic earthquake late on Friday, resulting in a grim death toll that has now risen to 2,012. Survivors, left homeless by the disaster, spent a night exposed to the elements on Saturday.
Local residents are bravely continuing their search for survivors amidst the rubble of homes constructed from mud brick, stone, and rough wood. The earthquake, which struck late on Friday, caused mosque minarets to crumble, and even the historic city of Marrakech suffered significant damage.
The seismic event registered a magnitude of 6.8 and occurred around 11:11 p.m. (22:11 GMT), with an initial reported depth of approximately 18km that was later adjusted to nearly 26km (16 miles), according to the US Geological Survey.
Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported a heartbreaking toll of 2,012 fatalities and 2,059 injuries, with 1,404 individuals in critical condition.
The epicenter of the earthquake was situated in a remote mountainous area southwest of Marrakesh, where entire villages are reported to have been leveled.
In the village of Amizmiz, close to the epicenter, rescue workers are using their bare hands to sift through debris. Collapsed buildings have blocked narrow pathways, and outside a hospital, around 10 lifeless bodies lay covered in blankets, with grieving family members nearby.
Rescue teams stood atop the collapsed floors of a building in Amizmiz, where fragments of carpet and furniture protruded from the wreckage. A long line formed outside the only open shop as people clamored for supplies. To further complicate rescue efforts, large boulders have fallen and blocked the road connecting Amizmiz to a neighboring village.
In the Asni area, situated about 40 km south of Marrakech, nearly all houses have suffered damage, forcing villagers to prepare for another night in the open. Shortages of food are reported due to collapsed kitchen roofs, according to villager Mohamed Ouhammo.
Tansghart, a village in the Ansi region, situated alongside a valley on the road ascending from Marrakech into the High Atlas, bore the brunt of the earthquake, according to witnesses.
The charming hillside houses were fractured by the tremors, and many of those that remained had sections of walls or plaster missing. Additionally, two minarets of local mosques had collapsed.
Reports of tremors were even documented as far as Huelva and Jaen in southern Spain. The World Health Organization estimates that over 300,000 individuals in Marrakech and its vicinity have been affected.
Within the historic heart of the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, a minaret of a mosque collapsed in Jemaa al-Fna Square. Several houses also crumbled in the densely populated old city, where residents like Id Waaziz Hassan used their hands to clear debris while awaiting heavy machinery for assistance.
Morocco has declared a three-day period of national mourning, during which the national flag will fly at half-mast across the nation, according to an announcement from the royal court on Saturday.
Fearing aftershocks, survivors have chosen to spend another night outside, sleeping on the streets. Rescue teams are working tirelessly to locate survivors but face challenges reaching remote regions due to numerous mountain roads being either damaged or completely destroyed.