Rare quake kills at least 2100 in Morocco as offers to help in flood in
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: An earthquake that struck Morocco late Friday local time has killed more than 2000 people with the death toll expected to climb as rescuers struggle to reach hard-hit remote areas two days later.
The rare quake sent people racing from their beds into the streets and toppled buildings in mountainous villages and ancient cities not built to withstand such force.
The magnitude 6.8 quake was the biggest to hit the North African country in 120 years and toppled stone and masonry walls, covering communities with rubble.
The devastation unfolded in each town along the High Atlas’ switchbacks in similar fashion: homes folded in on themselves and parents cried as boys and police carried the dead through the streets.
Remote villages like those in the drought-stricken Ouirgane Valley were largely cut off from the world when they lost electricity and mobile phone service.
In historic Marrakech, people could be seen on state TV clustering in the streets, afraid to go back inside buildings. The city’s famous Koutoubia Mosque, built in the 12th century, was damaged but the extent was not immediately clear; its 69-metre minaret is known as the “roof of Marrakech”.
Moroccans also posted videos showing damage to parts of the famous red walls that surround the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
At least 2012 people died in the quake, mostly in Marrakech and five provinces near the epicentre, Morocco’s Interior Ministry reported on Saturday night. At least another 2059 people were injured, 1404 critically, the ministry said.
“The problem is that where destructive earthquakes are rare, buildings are simply not constructed robustly enough to cope with strong ground shaking, so many collapse, resulting in high casualties,” said Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI ordered the armed forces to mobilise specialised search and rescue teams and a surgical field hospital, according to a statement from the military.
The king said he would visit the hardest-hit area but despite an outpouring of offers of help from around the world, the Moroccan government had not formally asked for assistance.
The epicentre of Friday’s tremor was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, roughly 70 kilometres south of Marrakech. Al Haouz is known for scenic villages and valleys tucked in the High Atlas Mountains.
In Ijjoukak, a village in the area surrounding Toubkal, North Africa’s tallest peak, residents estimated almost 200 buildings had been levelled.
Relatives from the town and those who had driven from major cities cried while they wondered who to call as they reckoned with the aftermath and a lack of food and water.
World leaders offered to send in aid or rescue crews as condolences poured in from countries in Europe, the Middle East and the G20 summit in India.
The president of Turkey, which lost tens of thousands of people in a massive earthquake earlier this year, was among countries to offer help. France and Germany, with large populations of people of Moroccan origin, also offered to assist.