Morocco’s mounting death toll
A magnitude 6.8 earthquake in Morocco on Saturday morning has killed over 2,100 people so far, with the death toll expected to rise as aftershocks hit and emergency workers race to rescue trapped victims. The quake’s epicentre was in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains, about 70 km away from the ancient city of Marrakesh, where maze-like lanes filled with rubble. Early reports indicate that most casualties are in the poorer Al Haouz province – south of Marrakesh and closer to the epicentre, where buildings have been constructed without much reference to safety standards. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has called in the army to assist with search and rescue and has directed humanitarian efforts towards helping “orphans and vulnerable people”.
HOW BAD IS THIS GOING TO GET?
Morocco hasn’t had a quake this bad in over a century, which experts say has left residents unprepared for the disaster. Many of the buildings in Morocco’s rural areas are built using cheap materials and without reinforcement, making them especially vulnerable during a disaster like this. There are reports that most of the clay brick buildings in the mountain village of Tafeghaghte have been destroyed. On top of that, landslides in the mountains around these villages have slowed down rescue efforts. As of Monday morning, there were 2,421 Moroccans injured in the earthquake, with the Interior Ministry saying that more than 1,400 are injured critically. The health system is being supported by Doctors Without Borders, who say that earthquake survivors often need surgery or dialysis.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Since the quake, countries have been lining up to offer Morocco humanitarian aid and rescue support. So far, Morocco has accepted help from Spain, Tunisia, the UK, the UAE, and Qatar – with France saying it’s still waiting for its offer to be accepted. Within Morocco, blood banks have been appealing for donations to aid victims. Given the scale of the destruction, Red Cross director Hossam Elsharkawi has said, “We are looking at many months if not years of response.” Morocco’s king has set up a commission to disperse the incoming aid and to provide “emergency rehabilitation and assistance in the reconstruction of destroyed housing in disaster areas”. He also declared 3 days of mourning for the victims of the quake.
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