MARRAKESH - Survivors of Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in more than six decades struggled to find food and water on Sunday as the search for the missing continued in hard-to-reach villages and the death toll of more than 2,100 seemed likely to rise further.
Many people spent a second night in the open after the 6.8 magnitude quake hit late on Friday. Relief workers face the challenge of reaching the worst-affected villages in the High Atlas, a rugged mountain range where settlements are often remote and where many houses crumbled.
The death toll climbed to 2,122 while the count of injured rose to 2,421, many seriously, according to official figures updated late on Sunday by the interior ministry.
Moroccan media reported the collapse of a historically important 12th century mosque, underlining damage to the country’s cultural heritage. The quake also damaged parts of Marrakech old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In Moulay Brahim, a village near the epicentre 40km south of Marrakech, residents described how they had dug the dead from the rubble using their bare hands. “We lost our houses and we lost people also and we are sleeping like two days outside,” said 36-year-old Yassin Noumghar, a Moulay Brahim resident. Complaining of shortages of water, food and power, Noumghar said he had received little government aid so far. “We want just for our government to help us,” he said, expressing a frustration voiced by others. Later, sacks of food were unloaded from a truck which local official Mouhamad al-Hayyan said had been organised by the government and civil society organisations.
Twenty-five bodies had been brought to Moulay Brahims small medical clinic, according to staff there who warned they were starting to face a shortage of some first aid supplies. With many homes built of mud bricks and timber, structures in the area crumbled easily.
It was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 when a quake was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people, according to the US Geological Survey. Makeshift tents had been erected on a dirt soccer pitch. Residents were wrapped in blankets after spending the night outside. One man, who was salvaging mattresses and clothes from his wrecked home, said he believed his neighbours were still under the rubble. In the village of Amizmiz, 27km west of Moulay Brahim, residents also struggled to find food. “We used blankets to make a tent,” said Ali Ait Youssef. “The tents the government distributed are not enough.” The government said on Saturday it was taking urgent measures to address the disaster including reinforcing search and rescue teams, providing drinking water and distributing food, tents and blankets. France said it stood ready to help and was awaiting a formal request from Morocco. “France is ready to offer its aid to Morocco if Morocco decides it is useful,” President Emmanuel Macron said at the G20 Summit in New Delhi. “The second they request this aid, it will be deployed,” he added. Other countries offering assistance include Turkey, where earthquakes in February killed more than 50,000 people.