Tragedy strikes Morocco: death toll surpasses 2,000 in devastating earthquake
Morocco plunged into mourning on Sunday as the nation grappled with the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake that claimed the lives of over 2,000 people. Rescue teams launched frantic efforts to locate survivors trapped under the debris of obliterated villages.
This seismic catastrophe, the most powerful ever recorded in the country, has left a grim toll in its wake, with at least 2,012 confirmed fatalities and over 2,059 individuals injured, many of them in critical condition, according to the most recent official statistics.
The earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, struck just 72 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Marrakesh, a renowned tourist destination, decimating entire villages in remote rural areas.
Heartbreakingly, Lahcen, a resident of the mountain village of Moulay Brahim, shared his tragic loss as he stood amidst the wreckage. His wife and four children perished in the disaster. While rescue workers managed to recover the bodies of three of his daughters from the ruins of their former home, his wife and son remain missing. Overwhelmed with grief, Lahcen lamented, “I can’t do anything about it now; I just want to get away from the world and mourn.”
In a race against time, troops and emergency services have mobilized to reach remote mountain villages where survivors may still be trapped. Al-Haouz province, near the epicenter of the earthquake, suffered the most significant loss of life, with 1,293 casualties, followed by the province of Taroudant with 452.
The first funerals have already taken place, as communities like Moulay Brahim come to grips with their devastating losses. Bouchra, another resident of the village, watched with tearful eyes as graves were dug to lay victims to rest. She said with a trembling 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. Everyone here has lost family, whether in our village or elsewhere in the region.”
In response to the disaster, authorities declared three days of national mourning, while several countries, including Israel, France, Spain, Italy, and the United States, have extended offers of aid. Even neighboring Algeria, despite past tensions with Morocco, opened its airspace to humanitarian aid and injured victims.
However, the road to recovery will be long and arduous. The Red Cross cautioned that repairing the extensive damage could take years. Hossam Elsharkawi, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa director, stated, “It won’t be a matter of a week or two… We are counting on a response that will take months, if not years.”
The village of Tafeghaghte, located 60 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh, bore the full brunt of the earthquake’s fury and was nearly completely destroyed. Residents like 72-year-old Omar Benhanna shared their heart-wrenching stories of loss, with victims, including children, still trapped under the rubble.
As the nation grieves, the memory of this earthquake will forever haunt Morocco, reminiscent of the 1960 quake that razed Agadir, claiming the lives of nearly 15,000 people, one-third of the city’s population.