After the severe earthquake, Morocco initially wants to take advantage of offers of help from four countries. An aftershock made rescue work more difficult on Sunday. The number of deaths rose to 2,122.
The teams contacted their Moroccan colleagues on Sunday. The government welcomes all solidarity initiatives from different countries, it said. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have ordered the establishment of an airlift to deliver aid to Morocco, the state news agency SPA reported late on Sunday evening. The two Arab countries traditionally maintain friendly relations. According to a report in the newspaper “Arab News”, a Saudi search and rescue team is to support the local rescue workers.
USA: “We are ready to go”
For the US, for example, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the government had mobilized the relevant authorities and were now ready for action. “And we are now waiting for news from the Moroccan government to find out how and where we can help. But we are ready to go,” he said in an interview with CNN.
Meanwhile, the Moroccan government announced a special relief fund for the suffering population. This was intended, among other things, to cover costs for securing damaged houses, the Hespress news site reported, citing a government spokesman. There was no information about the amount of the fund. It should be made up of funds from public institutions and voluntary contributions from the private sector, it said.
2122 dead and 2421 injured
According to figures from the Moroccan Interior Ministry on Sunday afternoon, 2,122 dead and 2,421 injured were counted nationwide. In addition to local hospitals and ambulance services, more than 1,000 doctors and 1,500 nurses were mobilized to provide medical care for the injured, Hespress reported.
The country was shaken by the aftershock around 9 a.m., said Nasser Jabour, head of a department at the National Institute of Geophysics. The US Earthquake Observatory USGS recorded a magnitude of 3.9. According to Hespress, the epicenter of the aftershock was about 80 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh, similar to the first quake. Victim numbers were not yet available. In the remote mountain villages of the North African country, emergency services used heavy equipment to dig through the rubble of collapsed houses. But the time window is becoming increasingly narrow for the helpers. When searching for people buried as a result of an earthquake, experts speak of a time window of approximately 72 hours.
Small town completely destroyed
A small town in the province of Chichaoua was almost completely destroyed, as the Moroccan state television station TV 2M reported on Sunday. 65 bodies were recovered and a mass grave was set up. Drones were used to help emergency services search for bodies, the Hespress news site reported. In Chicaoua alone, 191 deaths were registered.
Hundreds of people were still missing on Sunday, the Arabic-language news channel Al-Arabiya reported. However, the helpers are only making progress with difficulty in the sometimes remote mountain regions. There was also still a risk of aftershocks, which could cause damaged buildings to collapse completely.
On Sunday, a special unit of the Spanish military flew into the North African country. The Ministry of Defense announced on Twitter (X) that 56 members of the Military Emergency Relief Unit UME boarded an A400 transport plane in Zaragoza on Sunday together with four search dogs. The North African country had previously sent a formal request for assistance to Spain, as Spanish media consistently reported.
While German aid organizations such as the Technical Relief Organization (THW) reduced their willingness on Sunday in anticipation of the lack of a request for aid so far, other countries continued to maintain their offers of aid. The Austrian Foreign Ministry emphasized again on Sunday afternoon that it wanted to help in response to APA’s request.
Around 110 Austrians are currently in Morocco
According to the Austrian Foreign Ministry, there are currently around 110 people from Austria in Morocco (as of Sunday afternoon). “Fortunately, we still have no information that any of them were injured,” said a spokeswoman. The Foreign Ministry is in constant contact with the Austrians, it said. They provide support in finding transport options and with questions about safety in Morocco.
The Secretary General of the Austrian Red Cross, Michael Opriesnig, made an appeal on Sunday to all people in Austria willing to help. “A lot of people from Austria and Germany contact us and want to help. However, we currently advise against traveling to the affected area,” he said. “The danger is too great and people from outside who have to be accommodated and fed represent an additional burden for aid organizations.” Financial support to professional NGOs or local initiatives would best support those affected in Morocco, it was said. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) also gave around one million Swiss francs (equivalent to 1.05 million euros) on Sunday. Renewed calls for donations also came from Caritas and the relief organization on Sunday.
More than 300,000 people affected
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 300,000 people in the city of Marrakesh and surrounding areas have been affected by the earthquake. They spent the second night in uncertainty and sadness. The magnitude 6.8 quake late Friday evening was the worst in Morocco in decades. King Mohammed VI ordered three days of national mourning. The epicenter was a good 70 kilometers southwest of Marrakesh in the Atlas Mountains. Since earthquakes occur relatively rarely in North Africa, experts believe that buildings are not built robustly enough to withstand such strong shaking.
Some buildings were destroyed and historic cultural monuments were damaged in areas from the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh’s old town. This is also said to be the case with the famous mountain mosque of Tinmal in the west of the mountains, as local media reported on Sunday. The Tinmal Mosque dates back to the twelfth century and is considered one of the most important historical sites in the High Atlas.
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