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Morocco survivors seek aid as quake toll of over 2,000 seen likely to rise

Courtesy: Dawn News/AFP

Survivors of Morocco’s deadliest earthquake in more than six decades struggled to find food and water on Sunday as the search for the missing continued in hard-to-reach villages and the death toll of more than 2,000 seemed likely to rise further.

Many people spent a second night in the open after the 6.8 magnitude quake hit late on Friday.

Relief workers face the challenge of reaching the worst-affected villages in the High Atlas, a rugged mountain range where settlements are often remote and where many houses crumbled.

Moroccan media reported the collapse of a historically important 12th century mosque, underlining damage to the country’s cultural heritage. The quake also damaged parts of Marrakech old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In Moulay Brahim, a village near the epicentre 40km south of Marrakech, residents described how they had dug the dead from the rubble using their bare hands.

“We lost our houses and we lost people also and we are sleeping like two days outside,” said 36-year-old Yassin Noumghar, a Moulay Brahim resident.

Complaining of shortages of water, food and power, Noumghar said he had received little government aid so far. “We want just for our government to help us,” he said, expressing a frustration voiced by others.

Later, sacks of food were unloaded from a truck which local official Mouhamad al-Hayyan said had been organised by the government and civil society organisations.

Twenty-five bodies had been brought to Moulay Brahims small medical clinic, according to staff there who warned they were starting to face a shortage of some first aid supplies.

With many homes built of mud bricks and timber, structures in the area crumbled easily.

It was Morocco’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 when a quake was estimated to have killed at least 12,000 people, according to the US Geological Survey.

Makeshift tents had been erected on a dirt soccer pitch.


Prayers for the dead

The latest casualty figures from the Interior Ministry, released late on Saturday, put the death toll at 2,012, with 2,059 people injured, including 1,404 in critical condition.

The World Health Organisation said more than 300,000 people have been affected by the disaster.

Pope Francis offered prayers and solidarity for the victims.

Morocco has declared three days of mourning and King Mohammed VI called for prayers for the dead to be held at mosques across the country.

The quake’s epicentre was 72km southwest of Marrakech, a city beloved of Moroccans and foreign tourists for its medieval mosques, palaces and seminaries richly adorned with vivid mosaic tiling amid a labyrinth of rose-hued alleyways.

Marrakech is due to host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank from October 9.

An IMF spokesperson, asked on Saturday about the planned meetings, said: “Our sole focus at this time is on the people of Morocco and the authorities who are dealing with this tragedy.”

1- Header image: Moroccan Royal Armed Forces search through the rubble of houses after an earthquake in the mountain village of Tafeghaghte, southwest of the city of Marrakesh, on September 9. — AFP

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