Earthquake kills more than 1,300 in Morocco

All Pakistani nationals are safe in quake-hit Morocco: FO

MOULAY BRAHIM (MOROCCO)  -  Morocco's deadliest earthquake in decades has killed more than 1,300 people, author­ities said Saturday, as troops and emergen­cy services scrambled to reach remote moun­tain villages where ca­sualties are still feared trapped.

The 6.8-magnitude quake struck late Fri­day in a mountain­ous area 72 kilometres (45 miles) southwest of tourist hotspot Mar­rakesh, the US Geolog­ical Survey reported. With strong tremors also felt in the coast­al cities of Rabat, Casa­blanca and Essaouira, the quake caused wide­spread damage and sent terrified residents and tourists scrambling to safety in the middle of the night. 

"I was nearly asleep when I heard the doors and the shutters bang­ing,” said Ghannou Najem, a Casablanca resident in her 80s who was visiting Mar­rakesh when the quake hit. “I went outside in a panic. I thought I was going to die alone.” In the mountain vil­lage of Moulay Brahim near the quake’s epicentre, rescue teams searched for survivors in the rubble of collapsed houses while residents began digging graves for the dead on a nearby hill, AFP cor­respondents reported. The army set up a field hospital in the village and deployed “sig­nificant human and logisti­cal resources” to support the rescue operation, state news agency MAP reported.

It was the strongest-ever quake to hit the North Afri­can kingdom, and one expert described it as the region’s “biggest in more than 120 years”. “Where destructive earthquakes are rare, build­ings are simply not con­structed robustly enough... so many collapse, resulting in high casualties,” said Bill Mc­Guire, professor emeritus at Britain’s University College London.

Updated interior ministry figures on Saturday showed the quake killed at least 1,037 people, the vast major­ity in Al-Haouz, the epicentre, and Taroudant provinces.

Another 1,204 people were injured, including 721 in a critical condition, the minis­try said.

Civil defence Colonel Hi­cham Choukri who is heading relief operations told state television the epicentre and strength of the earthquake have created “an exceptional emergency situation”. 

Faisal Badour, an engineer, said he felt the quake three times in his building in Mar­rakesh.

“There are families who are still sleeping outside be­cause we were so scared of the force of this earthquake,” he said. “The screaming and crying was unbearable.”

Frenchman Michael Bizet, 43, who owns three tradition­al riad houses in Marrakesh’s old town, told AFP he was in bed when the quake struck.

“I thought my bed was go­ing to fly away. I went out into the street half-naked and im­mediately went to see my ri­ads. It was total chaos, a real catastrophe, madness,” he said.

Footage on social media showed part of a minaret collapsed on Jemaa el-Fna square in the historic city.

An AFP correspondent saw hundreds of people flocking to the square to spend the night for fear of aftershocks, some with blankets while others slept on the ground.

Mimi Theobold, 25, a tour­ist from England, said she was with friends on a restau­rant terrace when the tables began shaking and plates went flying.

Houda Outassaf, a local res­ident, said she was “still in shock” after feeling the earth shake beneath her feet -- and losing relatives.

“I have at least 10 members of my family who died... I can hardly believe it, as I was with them no more than two days ago,” she said.

Hotelier Bernard Curi said he had been thrown out of his bed by the force of the shock. “The shaking was so strong I couldn’t get back up again right away.”

The interior ministry said authorities have “mobilised all the necessary resources to intervene and help the affect­ed areas”.

The regional blood trans­fusion centre in Marrakesh called on residents to donate blood for those injured.

The Royal Moroccan Foot­ball Federation announced that a Cup of African Nations qualifier against Liberia, due to have been played on Satur­day in the coastal city of Aga­dir, had been postponed in­definitely.

“We heard screams at the time of the tremor,” a resi­dent of Essaouira, 200 kilo­metres (125 miles) west of Marrakesh, told AFP. “Pieces of facades have fallen.”

The USGS PAGER system, which provides preliminary assessments on the impact of earthquakes, issued a “red alert” for economic losses, saying extensive damage is probable.

Foreign leaders expressed their condolences and many offered assistance, including Israel with which Morocco normalised relations in 2020.

Neighbour and regional ri­val Algeria announced it was suspending a two-year-old ban on all Moroccan flights through its airspace to en­able aid deliveries and med­ical evacuations.

US President Joe Biden said he was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and devasta­tion”.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping expressed “deep grief for the victims” and hope that “the Moroccan government and people will be able to over­come the impact of this disas­ter”. Pope Francis expressed “his profound solidarity with those who are touched in the flesh and heart by this trage­dy”. In 2004, at least 628 peo­ple were killed and 926 in­jured when a quake hit Al Hoceima in northeastern Mo­rocco, and in 1960 a mag­nitude 6.7 quake in Agadir killed more than 12,000.

The 7.3-magnitude El As­nam earthquake in Algeria killed 2,500 people and left at least 300,000 homeless in 1980.

The people and Govern­ment of Pakistan stood in sol­idarity with the Kingdom of Morocco and expressed their heartfelt sympathies and condolences at the tragic loss of lives in yesterday’s earth­quake. 

“We have also conveyed our offer of assistance to Moroc­co,” Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in a press statement, on Saturday.

Pakistan Embassy in Rabat has reached out to the Paki­stani community to inquire about their safety. “As per ini­tial reports all Pakistani na­tionals are safe. We will con­tinue to monitor the situation to facilitate them in the wake of this tragedy,” she added.

According to Moroccan state media, at least 820 killed and 672 were injured after a powerful earthquake of magnitude 6.8 struck Mo­rocco.

Pakistan says the people and government stand in sol­idarity with the Kingdom of Morocco and express their heartfelt sympathies and condolences at tragic loss of lives caused by the earth­quake.

In a statement, Foreign Of­fice Spokesperson, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said, Pakistan has also conveyed offer of as­sistance to Morocco.

She said Pakistan’s Embas­sy in Rabat has reached out to our community to inquire about their safety.

The spokesperson said as per initial reports, all Paki­stani nationals are safe in Morocco.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said we will continue to moni­tor the situation to facilitate Pakistani community in the wake of this tragedy.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt