ABU DHABI, 11th September, 2023 (WAM) -- A local newspaper has said that Morocco is reeling from its most devastating earthquake since the tragic Agadir disaster of 1960, which claimed the lives of an estimated 15,000 people. However, the recent 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the Atlas Mountains on Friday night has left a grim toll in its wake, currently surpassing 2,000 deaths and thousands more injured.
In an editorial on Monday, The National said, "On Friday night, the 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck in the Atlas Mountains and exacted a cruel toll, one that is still rising: at least 2,012 people have been confirmed dead and thousands injured in Marrakesh and in regions to the south. In the 72 hours since, hundreds of people in Morocco have slept in open spaces, camping by the roads and streets, understandably fearful of returning indoors."
Mouhamed Ayat Elhaj, a resident, said, "I returned to my house and noticed many cracks in the walls. I cannot sleep there." People are also worried with reason about tremors and aftershocks, which add to the trauma and damage where earthquakes occur.
In Morocco's hour of need, and as the country is in three days of mourning, world leaders expressed condolences to King Mohammed VI and his people. They also banded together, as is appropriate for the international community, to organise and send aid.
President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan ordered an air bridge to be opened on Saturday to enable the relief effort. A similar air bridge in February enabled the UAE to send 260 flights with aid for the Trkiye-Syria earthquake, which saw huge destruction and claimed 50,000 lives.
Other world leaders, many of whom were gathered in New Delhi for the G20 summit, also sent condolences and messages of support, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Trkiye. Pledges came promptly from several countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, whose authorities said it will send aid flights.
Algeria also opened its airspace for the first time in two years so that flights could carry assistance. Additionally, the US, UK, France, Germany and Spain said they were preparing emergency aid.
"Unfortunately, as any country that has experienced natural disasters knows all too well, the aftermath endures for a long time. Even as humanitarian instincts unite and propel foreign aid to be rushed into Morocco, the suffering of people is immense and not easily healed. Those who've lost loved ones, perhaps under the rubble, have to grapple with not just their own sorrow - conducting absentee funeral prayers for family members - but also with strained financial circumstances, as the local economy falters and disrupts livelihoods," the daily continued.
A major driver of the local economy is tourism, which is gravely affected as villages were flattened and Marrakesh, a famous World Heritage site, assess the extent of damage to its historical landmarks. The Kharbouch Mosque's minaret, on Jemaa El Fna square, has been badly damaged and the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, a UNESCO heritage site from the 12th century, has had substantial cracks.
The Abu-Dhabi-based daily concluded, "In the coming days and weeks, as the country fully assimilates its loss, the international community must continue to exercise compassion. It must not forget that the thousands of people in Morocco - who have overnight been robbed of family and homes - will need a steadying hand as the country begins the slow and painful process of getting back on its feet."