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Catastrophic Earthquake Strikes Morocco, Over 1,000 Lives Lost

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

Late Friday night, Morocco was struck by a devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake—one of the nation's largest in 120 years. The quake, with its epicentre south of Marrakech, left a trail of destruction from remote mountain villages to the historic city, killing more than 1,000 people, with the final death toll expected to rise, according to Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London.

The Moroccan Interior Ministry reported that over 1,037 people died, and another 1,204 individuals were injured, primarily in Marrakech and five provinces situated near the quake’s epicentre. Among the injured, 721 are in critical condition and require urgent medical attention.

Around midnight, the normally bustling streets of Marrakech fell silent, save for the fearful clusters of people wrapped in blankets, too scared to return indoors. Ancient masonry buildings and the rustic stone houses in the villages were not constructed to withstand such devastating tremors, leading to significant casualties.

The iconic Koutoubia Mosque, a landmark dating back to the 12th century, was among the damaged structures in Marrakech. The red walls enclosing the old quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage site, also suffered damages.

The Moroccan King Mohammed VI, in response to the disaster, ordered mobilization of air and land assets, specialized search and rescue teams, and a surgical field hospital. However, the government has yet to formally request international assistance to aid rescue efforts.

Despite catastrophic damages, business resumed in parts of Marrakech by Saturday morning, while rescue teams worked tirelessly to free trapped survivors. The Red Cross and other emergency services expedited their efforts in face of the disaster, even as they navigated around landslides and crumbled infrastructure.

Offers of aid came in from around the world, with countries like Turkey, France, Germany, and others proposing assistance. The earthquake also sent ripples of concern across Europe and Middle-East as officials expressed their condolences and support for the disaster-struck nation.

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