Morocco reels after strongest quake on record kills over 2000

Morocco enters three days of mourning as rescue and recovery efforts continue after Friday’s devastating earthquake claimed over 2,000 lives.

The powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in the country, causing widespread destruction as buildings collapsed in cities and rural villages.

According to government reports, the earthquake claimed the lives of at least 2,012 people while injuring over 2,059 others, many of them critical.

The World Health Organization said over 300,000 people across Marrakesh and surrounding regions were affected.  

Those left homeless by the destruction slept outside or under makeshift canopies in Atlas Mountain towns. In the capital city, many residents spent the night sleeping outside on sidewalks and in public squares, fearful of aftershocks.

Military personnel and emergency crews raced against time to reach remote mountain villages, fearing many more victims remained trapped beneath the rubble.  

On Saturday afternoon, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI chaired an emergency disaster response meeting and declared three days of national mourning.

The palace said in a statement that civil protection units were deployed to increase stocks in blood banks and ensure the supply of vital resources, including water, food, tents and blankets.

Officials said some of the hardest-hit areas were so remote and inaccessible that relief efforts could only start after sunrise, the day after the earthquake.  

Several countries offered aid in a gesture of solidarity. Despite recent tensions with Morocco, neighbouring Algeria opened its airspace to flights carrying humanitarian relief and evacuating the injured.

Towns and cities devastated  

The province of Al-Haouz, located at the earthquake’s epicentre, endured most of the damage and fatalities, with 1,293 reported deaths. The province of Taroudant suffered the second-highest death toll at 452 lives lost.

The village of Tafeghaghte, 40 miles south-west of Marrakech, was almost entirely destroyed.

In Marrakech’s Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a mosque minaret had fallen in Jemaa al-Fna Square. Meanwhile, a video showed the nearly 1,000-year-old minaret of Marrakech’s iconic Kutubiyya Mosque spewing dust.   

Saida Bodchich was asleep in her house in Marrakesh when the earthquake hit.

“I was saved by my neighbours who cleared the rubble with their bare hands,” Bodchich told Al Jazeera, “I am living with them in their house now because mine was completely destroyed.”

Khadijah Satou, another Marrakesh resident, said: “It was traumatic. I’m speaking about it now but the feeling was really bad,” she added.

In Amizmiz, residents described the devastation left in the earthquake’s wake. One local told Al Jazeera that not only have all the town’s inhabitants lost their homes, but all families are mourning the death of loved ones.

“We ask that the king intervene and send us some help because we are living through a traumatic situation,” pleaded another resident.

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