Morocco: Heartache from earthquake as death toll rises above 2, 000

Image caption: Man in grief after burying his brother who was killed by the earthquake (Photo source: AP)

Morocco: Heartache from earthquake as death toll rises above 2, 000


The death toll from a powerful earthquake in Morocco has soared to more than 2,000, with a similar number of injured.


The interior ministry says more than 1,400 have serious injuries, and the heaviest casualties are in provinces just south of Marrakesh.


King Mohammed VI declared three days of national mourning and ordered shelter, food and other help for survivors.

People gather to bury a victim (Photo source: AP)

Many people are spending a second night out in the open.


The magnitude 6.8 quake hit Marrakesh and many towns on Friday night. In remote mountain areas, entire villages are reported to have been flattened.


The epicentre was in the High Atlas Mountains, 71km (44 miles) south-west of Marrakesh – a city with world heritage status which is popular with tourists.


But the tremors were also felt in the capital Rabat, some 350km away, as well as Casablanca, Agadir and Essaouira.


The interior ministry says Al Haouz province has the highest death toll, followed by Taroudant province. There are far fewer deaths in Marrakesh, though the Unesco-protected old city has suffered considerable damage.


It is believed that many simple mud brick, stone and timber homes in mountain villages will have collapsed, but the scale of devastation in remote areas will take some time to assess.

In Moulay Brahim, Al Haouz province, people prayed next to the bodies of victims

Such a powerful earthquake is unusual for Morocco

When he arrived in one such village, BBC correspondent Nick Beake says, an elderly woman was wailing as 18 bodies had been recovered in that one place.


Many people are camping out for the night there, he says, as they fear aftershocks. They say they are desperately short of food and water. But such places are hard to reach, with mountain roads strewn with rocks and other debris, making access difficult for the emergency services.

King Mohammed VI chaired an emergency meeting with officials to co-ordinate rescue efforts and aid

King Mohammed VI chaired an emergency meeting with officials to co-ordinate rescue efforts and aid

Flags will be at half-mast on all public buildings in the country for the next three days, the royal palace said in a statement.


Women comfort each other after burial of a victim (Photo source: AP)


The king ordered the armed forces to assist rescue teams, and Moroccans are donating blood as part of the national effort to help victims.


It was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since Agadir was devastated by a 6.7-magnitude quake in 1960, which killed more than 12,000.


Friday’s quake was also the most powerful to hit Morocco for more than a century.


The UN said it was ready to assist the government of Morocco in its rescue efforts – and similar pledges have come from several countries including Spain, France and Israel.


Neighbouring Algeria has had hostile relations with Morocco in recent years, but is now opening its airspace for humanitarian flights to Morocco.


Many families were trapped when the quake struck at night.

Residents flee their homes

Montasir Itri, who lives in the mountain village of Asni, close to the epicentre, told Reuters: “Our neighbours are under the rubble and people are working hard to rescue them using available means in the village.”


Houda Outassaf had been walking around Jemaa el-Fna Square in Marrakesh when he felt the ground start to shake.


“I have at least 10 members of my family who died… I can hardly believe it, as I was with them no more than two days ago,” he told AFP news agency.


A mosque minaret collapsed in Jemaa el-Fna Square and many narrow streets in the city’s old Medina were filled with rubble.


Source: BBC News

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