On Saturday evening, King Mohammed VI of Morocco declared three days of national mourning for the victims of the devastating earthquake, and also ordered the acceleration of rescue operations.
The death toll from the earthquake that struck Morocco on Friday night rose to at least 2,000 people, according to the Moroccan Ministry of Interior.
The death toll also rose to 2,059. More than half of the victims were counted in the mountainous Al Haouz province, south of Marrakesh.
The Moroccan Royal Court issued a statement published by the official news agency, referring to instructions issued by Mohammed VI, after he chaired a working session devoted to discussing the situation in the wake of the devastating earthquake.
The Moroccan Royal Court said that the King gave his instructions with the aim of continuing all rescue work urgently at the field level, and the instructions also included:
- Establishing an urgent program aimed at providing the necessary support and rebuilding destroyed homes in the affected areas as soon as possible.
- Taking care of orphans and those in difficult and vulnerable situations.
- Providing shelter, nutrition and all basic needs for those affected.
- Immediate resumption of economic activities at the level of the regions concerned.
Casualties were recorded in the provinces and prefectures of Al Haouz, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Azilal, Chichaoua and Taroudan.
A local official said most of the deaths were in hard-to-reach mountain areas.
The National Institute of Geophysics in Morocco reported that an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale was recorded in Al Haouz Province, in the center of the country, at 11:00 Friday night, Moroccan time.
The National Institute of Geophysics indicated that aftershocks following the earthquake that struck Morocco could continue, adding that “the aftershocks are expected to continue for a few days or a few weeks before they disappear,” according to Moroccan media.
Videos posted on social media showed destroyed buildings, other buildings shaking, and streets filled with scattered debris. People were seen running away in panic, and some were walking through clouds of dust.
There were reports of families still trapped under the rubble of their homes. Hospitals in the city of Marrakesh witnessed an influx of wounded from various regions, and the authorities called on citizens to donate blood.
Many of the footage published on the X platform showed buildings collapsing, but the BBC was unable to locate those buildings.
Residents decided to stay outside their homes in anticipation of other strong earthquakes.
The US Geological Survey said that a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 struck central Morocco, adding that the epicenter of the earthquake was 71 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh, and at a depth of 18.5 kilometers.
Residents of Marrakesh, the closest large city to the epicenter of the earthquake, said that some buildings had collapsed in the old part of the city, which is classified on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Footage of the city wall, which dates back to the Middle Ages, showed large cracks in one of its sections, parts of it falling, and rubble being scattered. in the street.
Causes of the earthquake
Regarding the scientific causes of earthquakes, Ghassan Suwaidan, director of the Earthquake Monitoring Center in Jordan, told the BBC, “There are natural and artificial causes. The first is tectonic, meaning that it is related to a collision between huge rock blocks in the earth’s crust. The second is related to nuclear explosions and quarry explosions.” Stones and mines.
But why did the earthquake occur in this region of Morocco specifically?
We asked this question to Suwaidan, who confirmed the existence of an active fault in the area that had previously been dormant, but the accumulation of stresses on it from the movement of huge rocks led to the earthquake.
He said, “Earthquakes only occur on the borders of faults on the Earth and do not occur randomly.”
The Jordanian seismologist predicted the occurrence of aftershocks and said that he recorded the occurrence of a moderate earthquake with a magnitude of 4.8, which is not of the destructive type, but when it occurs after a strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7, its destructive impact may be greater due to the disruption of the infrastructure, including buildings, dams, and bridges, due to the larger earthquake. Suwaidan said.
Suwaidan added that the North African region is vulnerable to more of these earthquakes because “it is close to the collision zone between two tectonic plates, which are the African plate heading north and the Eurasian plate in Europe, where the African plate sinks under the European one. We find that the regions of Greece, Cyprus, and the countries that overlook the Mediterranean are witnessing earthquakes.” Many earthquakes from time to time.”
Montaser Etri, a resident of the mountainous village of Asna near the epicenter of the earthquake, said that most of the houses there were damaged.
He added, “Our neighbors are under the rubble and the people are working hard to save them using the means available in the village.”
The Media 24 website also quoted medical sources as saying that there was a “massive influx” of wounded people to Marrakesh hospitals. Residents of Rabat, Casablanca, Agadir and Essaouira felt the earthquake, as a number of citizens took to the streets of these cities for fear of the collapse of their homes, according to pictures circulated on social media.
International solidarity to provide assistance
International reactions to the earthquake continued, expressing sympathy for the earthquake victims and offering assistance.
Algeria – which severed diplomatic relations with Morocco in 2021 – offered its condolences to the families of the victims and the Moroccan people, and announced the opening of its airspace, which has been closed since September 2021, to flights transporting humanitarian aid and those wounded as a result of the disaster.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, and Iraq declared their solidarity with Morocco.
US President Joe Biden expressed his sympathy for the earthquake victims and said that the United States is “ready to provide any necessary assistance.”
He said in a statement published on the official White House website: “I feel very sad about the loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake in Morocco.”
In China, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a “message of condolence” to Morocco, according to official media.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was speaking at the G20 summit, said that the international community would come to Morocco’s aid.
The Spanish Prime Minister offered “solidarity and support to the Moroccan people.” French President Emmanuel Macron said he felt “devastated” by the news and offered to provide assistance to Morocco.
Morocco, which normalized its relations with Israel in 2020, received an offer of assistance from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who announced that he had given “instructions to all governmental bodies and forces to provide all necessary assistance to the Moroccan people,” according to a statement issued by his office.
It is noteworthy that on February 24, 2004, an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck Al Hoceima Governorate, 400 kilometers northeast of Rabat, resulting in 628 deaths and severe material damage.
On February 29, 1960, an earthquake destroyed the city of Agadir, located on the western coast of the country, leaving more than 12,000 dead, or a third of the city’s population.