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Morocco: Devastating earthquake kills over 2,100 people; Dalai Lama offers assistance

The sheer scale of the disaster in the aftermath of the quake can be imagined that the people slept in the streets of Marrakech for a third straight night as soldiers and other international aid teams carried on their rescue operation into the remote mountain towns in trucks and helicopters.

Edited By: Ashesh Mallick Rabat (Morocco) Updated on: September 11, 2023 12:17 IST
Women cry as they mourn victims of earthquake in Moulay
Image Source : AP Women cry as they mourn victims of earthquake in Moulay Brahim

The devastating earthquake measuring 6.8 magnitude that hit Morocco last late Friday has claimed over 2,100 lives so far, a number which is expected to rise, according to the officials.

The sheer scale of the disaster in the aftermath of the quake can be imagined that the people slept in the streets of Marrakech for a third straight night as soldiers and other international aid teams carried on their rescue operation into the remote mountain towns in trucks and helicopters.

The United Nations has estimated that nearly 300,000 people were affected by the earthquake that toppled buildings as well as a UNESCO heritage site.

Several countries including the United States and France had offered assistance, however, Moroccan officials said on Sunday that they will accept international aid from only four countries - Spain, Qatar, Britain, and the United Arab Emirates.

“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,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

While some foreign search-and-rescue teams arrived on Sunday as an aftershock rattled Moroccans already in mourning and shock, other aid teams poised to deploy grew frustrated waiting for the government to officially request assistance.

“We know there is a great urgency to save people and dig under the remains of buildings. There are people dying under the rubble, and we cannot do anything to save them,” said Arnaud Fraisse, founder of Rescuers Without Borders.

Aid arrived late in Amizmiz where the buildings of orange and red sandstone bricks had crumbled. A mosque’s minaret had collapsed.

“It’s a catastrophe. We don’t know what the future is. The aid remains insufficient,’’ said villager Salah Ancheu, 28.

The locals cheered when trucks full of soldiers arrived into the town, seeing whom they pleased for more help.

“There aren’t ambulances, there aren’t police, at least for right now,” Ancheu said, speaking about many parts of the region on Sunday morning.

According to the Interior Ministry, in a region where many locals build bricks out of mud, the earthquake felled the buildings which were not strong enough to bear such a massive tremor, which resulted in the people getting trapped and others fleeing in terror.

A total of 2,122 people were confirmed dead and at least 2,421 others were injured — 1,404 of them critically, the Interior Ministry said.

Most of the dead - 1,351 - were in the Al Haouz district in the High Atlas Mountains, the ministry said.

The flags were lowered throughout the country as King Mohammed VI ordered three days of national mourning starting Sunday.

According to the aid groups, Morocco has not made an international appeal for help like Turkey did in the hours after the country suffered a massive quake earlier this year.

The epicenter of Friday’s quake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, about 70 kilometers south of Marrakech.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m., lasting several seconds, the USGS said.

Dalai Lama expresses grief over Morocco deaths

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has written to Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch condoling the loss of lives due to the earthquake.

In his letter, the Dalai Lama said he has asked the Gaden Phodrang Foundation of the Dalai Lama to make a donation towards the rescue and relief efforts in Morocco.

"I offer my condolences to Your Excellency, the families of those who have lost loved ones and pray for all those affected by this great tragedy. I am aware that your government is doing everything it can to provide support to help the rescue and relief efforts in the quake zones," he said.

"It is also heartening that the international community is sending aid following the earthquake. As a token of my solidarity with the people of Morocco affected by this tragedy, I have asked the Gaden Phodrang Foundation of the Dalai Lama to make a donation towards the rescue and relief efforts," he added.

PM Modi mentions Moroccon at G20 Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday (September 9) expressed condolences over the loss of lives in the massive earthquake in Morocco.

"Before we start the proceedings of G20, I want to express my condolences over the loss of lives due to an earthquake in Morocco. We pray that all injured recover at the earliest. India is ready to offer all possible assistance to Morocco in this difficult time," PM Modi said.

(With AP inputs)

ALSO READ | As earthquake wreaks havoc in Morocco, a look at deadliest quakes over the past 25 years

ALSO READ | Morocco earthquake claims over 2,000 lives, three-day national mourning declared

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