Morocco Earthquake: Death toll Crosses 2,000 Mark

In the wake of Friday’s catastrophic 6.8-magnitude earthquake, which marked Morocco’s strongest on record, the nation mourns the loss of over 2,000 lives and grapples with widespread devastation in cities and villages.

The epicentre of the quake, located 72 kilometres (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech, witnessed entire villages reduced to rubble, prompting a massive rescue and relief effort.

The Moroccan government has officially declared three days of mourning, during which the national flag will be flown at half-mast. The armed forces have mobilized rescue teams to provide critical aid to affected areas, including clean drinking water, food, tents, and blankets. Numerous countries, including Israel, France, Spain, Italy, and the United States, have extended offers of assistance.

Even neighbouring Algeria, despite its recent diplomatic tensions with Morocco, has opened its airspace to humanitarian aid flights and provided resources for relief efforts.

The hardest-hit areas include Al-Haouz province, the epicentre of the earthquake, with 1,293 reported deaths, followed by the province of Taroudant with 452 casualties.

Amid the tragedy, stories of personal loss and heartbreak have emerged. Lahcen, a resident of the remote mountain village of Moulay Brahim, grieves the loss of his wife and four children, buried under the wreckage of their home. Nearby, residents gather to dig graves for the victims, bearing witness to the devastating aftermath of the earthquake.

The Red Cross has warned that the path to recovery will be long and challenging, estimating that it could take months, if not years, to repair the extensive damage inflicted by the quake.

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The village of Tafeghaghte, situated 60 kilometres southwest of Marrakech, was nearly obliterated, with very few structures remaining intact. Families in the area bury their loved ones in a sombre ceremony that serves as a stark reminder of the quake’s toll.

Reports from Marrakech, the largest city near the epicentre, indicate damage to some buildings in the historic old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The iconic 12th-century Koutoubia mosque also suffered damage, though the full extent is yet to be assessed.

Morocco’s geophysical centre reported the earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 in the Ighil area, while the US Geological Survey recorded it as 6.8 at a shallow depth of 18.5 kilometres (11.5 miles). Experts anticipate potential aftershocks, which, although weaker, could pose further risks to already weakened structures.

The earthquake’s impact reverberated along the coastal cities of Rabat, Casablanca, Agadir, and Essaouira, prompting panic among residents.

International leaders, including Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and French President Emmanuel Macron, have expressed their solidarity and readiness to provide aid.

In a remarkable shift, Algeria, despite its prolonged diplomatic rift with Morocco, has offered to open its airspace for humanitarian aid transport and provide additional resources to assist its neighbouring nation.

This devastating earthquake stands as the deadliest in Morocco since the 1960 Agadir quake, which claimed 15,000 lives. Additionally, it evokes memories of the 1980 El Asnam earthquake in neighbouring Algeria, which resulted in 2,500 casualties and left over 300,000 people homeless.