Morocco is mobilising efforts nationwide for disaster relief after the 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit the country late on Friday night, which already claimed over 2 000 lives as of Saturday.
Professor Ghani Chehbouni is director of the International Water Research Institute at Mohamed VI Polytechnic University in Marrakesh. He briefed about the severity of the earthquake and the difficulties in rescue operations.
“About 11:00 pm local time yesterday had experienced the strongest earthquake that we have for over 100 years. The most casualty that we experience are in the mountain area and as you know the mountain area is not very accessible and people are living at top in the mountains. The government is doing what they can to rescue the people but it is very difficult to be sheltered. Since the winter season is about to start, people have lost their houses, we need all supports to be coordinated in order to help those population,” said Chehbouni.
The United Nations said that it will assist in humanitarian aid efforts for Morocco, and will assess reconstruction needs in the longer term.
“We stand ready to assist in whatever way we can once we’re requested to do that. But part of what’s going to need to happen is we’ll need to know how many people there are, who have been affected, how big the needs are, ultimately whether there are needs for food, for shelter, for medicines. First we’ll need a request for help and then we’ll need to assess the situation on the ground,” said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the UN secretary-general.
The historic city Marrakesh, recognized as a world heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), suffered grave damage. But Haq said the current priority should be humanitarian aid, and then will be reconstruction work.
“At this stage, we’ll need to see whether there is a greater need for reconstruction, including in the historic district. As you know, there’s a heritage site in Marrakesh and we’ll have to see whether that needs to be protected further. But long term reconstruction issues will have to wait. First we need to make sure that people get the humanitarian aid that they need,” said Haq.
The death toll from the strong earthquake has risen to 2 012, with more than 2 000 others injured, according to the latest update from the country’s Interior Ministry on Saturday.
The epicenter of the earthquake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, some 70 km southwest of Marrakesh.