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September 12, 2023

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Morocco quake survivors focus of rescue effort

RESCUERS raced against time yesterday to find survivors in the rubble more than 48 hours after Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in over six decades, with nearly 2,500 killed in a disaster that devastated villages in the High Atlas Mountains.

Search teams from Spain, Britain and Qatar are joining efforts to find survivors of the 6.8 magnitude quake that struck late on Friday night 72 kilometers southwest of Marrakech.

Many survivors spent a third night outside, their homes destroyed or rendered unsafe by Morocco’s most powerful earthquake since at least 1900. The death toll has climbed to 2,497 with 2,476 people injured, the state news agency reported yesterday.

In Imgdal, a village about 75km south of Marrakech, women and children huddled early yesterday morning under makeshift tents set up along the road and next to damaged buildings. Some gathered around an open fire. Further south, a car stood crushed by boulders that had fallen from the cliff.

With much of the quake zone in hard-to-reach areas, the full impact has yet to emerge. Authorities have not issued any estimates for the number of people missing.

Roads blocked or obstructed by dislodged rocks have made it difficult to access the hardest hit locations.

People have been salvaging possessions from the ruins of their homes and describing desperate scenes as they dug with their bare hands to find relatives.

Many structures, including homes built in traditional ways using mud bricks and timber, crumbled easily.

The damage done to Morocco’s cultural heritage has been emerging gradually. Buildings in Marrakech old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were damaged. The quake also reportedly did major damage to the historically significant 12th-century Tinmel Mosque in a remote mountain area closer to the epicenter.

It was the country’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 when an estimated 12,000 people died in a temblor.

In a televised statement on Sunday, government spokesperson Mustapha Baytas said that King Mohammed VI had instructed the prime minister to meet with a ministerial committee that is developing emergency plans, including for home reconstruction.


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