Morocco continues to mourn the victims of a devastating earthquake that has killed more than 2,000 people so far, as rescue teams race to find survivors that could still be trapped in the rubble of flattened villages.
According to reports from the US Geological Survey, the 6.8 magnitude quake struck late Friday in a mountainous area 72 kilometres southwest of the tourist city of Marrakesh. The quake and strong tremors that were felt in the coastal cities of Rabat and Casablanca caused widespread damage and sent terrified residents and tourists scrambling to safety in the middle of the night.
Bouchra, a resident of Moulai Brahaim, dried her tears with her scarf as she watched men digging graves to bury the victims.
She said in a knotted voice, “My cousin’s grandchildren are dead. I saw the devastation of the earthquake live, and I’m still shaking. It’s like a ball of fire that has swallowed up everything in its path.”
The latest update from the Interior Ministry late Saturday showed the quake had killed at least 2,012 people, the vast majority in Al-Haouz, the epicentre, and Taroudant provinces.
Omar Benhanna said, “Three of my grandchildren and their mother were killed; they are still under the rubble.”
Rescue workers using heavy machinery were searching on Saturday for survivors and victims in the wreckage of collapsed houses. Graves are being dug on a hill in the village to bury the dead.
UNESCO, the UN heritage organization, said it would help Morocco draw up an inventory of damage to national heritage sites and a repair strategy.
Authorities have declared three days of national mourning, while several countries, including Israel, France, Spain, Italy, and the United States, have offered aid.
Neighboring Algeria, which has had rocky relations with Morocco, opened its airspace, which had been closed for two years, to flights carrying humanitarian aid and the injured.