Rescuers accelerated searches on Sunday in Morocco to try to find survivors trapped under the rubble of villages razed by a powerful earthquake which left more than 2,100 dead southwest of the tourist city of Marrakech.
To support its teams, Morocco announced on Sunday evening that it had accepted help from only four countries to send rescuers, Spain, Great Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Rescuers, volunteers and members of the armed forces are working to find survivors and extract bodies from the rubble, particularly in villages in the province of Al-Haouz, the epicenter of the earthquake south of the tourist city of Marrakech, in the center of kingdom.
The earthquake, which occurred late Friday evening, of magnitude 7 according to the Moroccan Center for Scientific and Technical Research (6.8 according to the American Seismological Service), is the most powerful to have ever been measured in Morocco.
It left at least 2,122 dead and 2,421 injured, according to a latest report published in the afternoon by the Ministry of the Interior, a report likely to worsen as research continues.
In the village of Tafeghaghte, almost entirely destroyed by the earthquake whose epicenter was only about fifty kilometers away, rescuers were able to remove a body from a house in ruins, according to an AFP team . But four others are still buried under rubble, according to residents.
“Everyone is gone, my heart hurts, I’m inconsolable” breaks down in tears, Zahra Benbrik, 62, who claims to have lost 18 loved ones.
"Only my brother's body remains under the debris, I can't wait for them to take it out so that I can grieve in peace," she sighs.
According to public television, "more than 18,000 families were affected" by the earthquake in the province of Al-Haouz, where more than half of the deaths (1,351) were recorded. Tents have been erected in several villages to shelter these families.
The Ministry of Education announced on Sunday the "suspension" of school classes in the localities most affected by the earthquake in the province of Al-Haouz from Monday.
In Marrakech, many residents rushed to hospitals to donate blood for the victims.
“It’s really nice to see all this from citizens, and even foreigners who have nothing to do with the tragedy here came to donate blood,” said Youssef Qornafa, a student who donated blood in a center.
A three-day national mourning was declared on Saturday. The flags on the official buildings were lowered and a "prayer of the absent" was performed in all the mosques of the kingdom for the souls of the victims.
Many countries, from France to the United States, including Israel, had offered their help after the earthquake, but Rabat announced that it accepted the sending of "search and rescue teams" by Spain, Great Britain, Qatar and the Emirates.
Other offers could be accepted in the future "if the needs should evolve", specified the Ministry of the Interior in a press release.
Spain has already sent a team of 86 rescuers who must be on the job on Monday.
Television channels broadcast aerial images showing entire villages with clay houses in the region of Al-Haouz completely pulverized.
A short distance from the city hall of Marrakech, where pieces of the historic ramparts dating from the 12th century are in places damaged and partially collapsed, some fold their blankets on the lawn where they spent the night.
Maria, a Spanish tourist, spent the night outside the narrow streets of the old town and is preparing to "continue her journey as normal" towards Fez, further north.
The tremor was also felt in Rabat, Casablanca, Agadir and Essaouira, where many panicked residents took to the streets in the middle of the night, fearing the collapse of their homes.
This earthquake is the deadliest in Morocco since the one that destroyed Agadir, on the west coast of the country, on February 29, 1960. Nearly 15,000 people, or a third of the city's population, died.
10/09/2023 22:48:55 - Tafeghaghte (Morocco) (AFP) - ©2023 AFP