Tragedy Strikes as Morocco Earthquake Claims Over 2,800 Lives

By Mohammed bn Ismail

TALAT N'YAAQOUB, Morocco - Grief-stricken villagers wept as they searched through the wreckage of their homes, mourning the loss of their loved ones. The death toll from Morocco's deadliest earthquake in over 60 years surpassed 2,800, leaving rescuers racing against time to find survivors.

Following the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck late Friday night in the High Atlas Mountains, rescue teams from Spain, Britain, and Qatar arrived to support Moroccan efforts. The epicenter of the quake was located 72 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech.

According to state TV reports, the death toll has now reached 2,862, with 2,562 people injured. The chances of finding survivors are significantly reduced due to the prevalence of traditional mud brick houses in the region, which crumbled under the force of the earthquake.

Heartbreak pierced the air as grieving father Brahim Aytnasr relayed the tragic story of his 7-year-old son, Suleiman Aytnasr. The young boy had fallen asleep in the living room and was carried by his mother to his bedroom just moments before the earthquake struck. The ceiling collapsed and crushed him, shattering the family's hopes for a new school year.

In the devastated village of Tagadirte, where only a few buildings remained standing, 66-year-old Mohamed Ouchen recounted the valiant efforts of residents who managed to rescue 25 individuals from the rubble soon after the quake hit. Among those rescued was his own sister, whose head was visible beneath debris as villagers dug desperately with their bare hands.

Antonio Nogales, a Spanish rescuer from the aid group Bomberos Unidos Sin Fronteras (United Firefighters Without Borders), captured shocking footage from the remote village of Imi N'Tala. The video showcased the difficult terrain covered in rubble, as men and dogs navigated treacherous slopes.

Nogales expressed his disbelief at the extent of the destruction, struggling to find the words to describe it. He explained that not a single house remained upright. Despite the overwhelming devastation, rescuers, accompanied by search dogs, cling to hope, believing they may still discover survivors trapped within collapsed structures.

In response to initial criticisms about the slow rescue efforts, search and rescue operations have picked up pace. Temporary tent camps have been set up to provide shelter to those forced to spend their fourth night outdoors.

A video released by Moroccan outlet 2M showcased a military helicopter dropping sacks of essential supplies to isolated families in an area close to the earthquake's epicenter. However, with many affected areas difficult to reach, there is no estimate for the number of missing individuals.

The earthquake also caused significant damage to Morocco's cultural heritage. Marrakech's old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, suffered harm, along with the historically significant 12th-century Tinmel Mosque.

Residents of Tinmel, a remote village near the epicenter where 15 people lost their lives, shared food, water, and medicine but pleaded for tents and blankets to shield themselves from the cold nights in the mountains.

This calamity marks Morocco's deadliest earthquake since 1960 when an estimated 12,000 people perished. It also stands as the most powerful earthquake the country has experienced since at least 1900, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Government spokesperson Mustapha Baytas defended the government's response in a televised statement, assuring the public that every effort was being made on the ground. The army has reinforced search-and-rescue teams, provided drinking water, and distributed food, tents, and blankets.

As relief efforts intensify, a major road connecting the High Atlas Mountains to Marrakech experienced heavy traffic as vehicles carrying supplies and volunteers made their way to the hardest-hit communities in remote mountain areas. Moroccan volunteers, along with foreign aid workers, worked tirelessly to direct traffic and clear the roads of debris.

Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch announced that the government would compensate victims, although details regarding the extent of the compensation were scarce.

Despite the tragedy, Morocco remains determined to host the upcoming International Monetary Fund-World Bank annual meetings in Marrakech next month, according to sources familiar with the planning. The country has accepted aid offers from Spain, Britain, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. State TV hinted that additional relief offers from other countries might be accepted in the future.

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