Moroccan Amiz Miz—— Moroccans, unnerved by Sunday’s aftershocks, prayed for victims of the country’s strongest earthquake in more than a century and worked to rescue survivors while soldiers and workers delivered water and supplies to desperate mountain villages amid the rubble. The disaster killed more than 2,000 people, a number expected to rise.
The United Nations estimated that 300,000 people were affected by Friday night’s 6.8-magnitude earthquake, and some Moroccans complained on social networks that the government would not allow more help from the outside world. International aid workers are ready to deploy but are still awaiting a request for assistance from the Moroccan government.
“We know there is an urgent need to rescue people and dig under the remains of buildings,” said Arnaud Fraisse, founder of Relief Without Borders, which has a team trapped in Paris waiting Green light. “There are people dying under the rubble and there is nothing we can do to save them.”
Aid has been slow to arrive in Amizimizi, and the town’s large swath of orange and red sandstone brick houses built into the mountainside appear to be missing.
“This is a disaster,” said 28-year-old villager Salah Ancheu. “We don’t know what the future will bring. Aid is still not enough.”
Residents cleared all the rubble from the main unpaved road into the town and rescuers began to arrive but pleaded for more help.
“There are no ambulances and no police, at least for now,” Anche said.
On Saturday, those who were homeless – or worried about more aftershocks – slept on the streets of the ancient city of Marrakech or under makeshift canopies in Atlas Mountain towns, such as the worst-hit Mulaibrahim. The worst damage occurred in small rural communities, which were difficult for rescuers to reach because winding mountain roads were covered in falling rocks.
The areas were again hit by a 3.9-magnitude aftershock on Sunday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was unclear whether the quake caused more damage or casualties, but it may have been strong enough to rattle nerves in some areas, where buildings are unstable due to damage and residents fear aftershocks.
Friday’s quake caused the collapse of buildings that were not strong enough to withstand such a powerful earthquake, leaving people trapped in the rubble and others fleeing in terror. The Interior Ministry reported on Saturday that a total of 2,012 people were confirmed dead and at least 2,059 injured, 1,404 of them seriously.
“We felt a huge shock, like the end of the world,” said Ayoub Toudite, a resident of Moulay Brahim. “For ten seconds, everything disappeared.”
Flags were lowered across Morocco and King Mohammed VI ordered three days of national mourning starting on Sunday. The army mobilized specialized search and rescue teams, and the king ordered that water, food rations and shelter be provided to those who had lost their homes.
He also called on mosques to hold Sunday prayers for the victims, many of whom were buried Saturday amid frantic rescue efforts nearby.
Aid has poured in from around the world, and the United Nations said it has a team in Morocco coordinating how international partners can provide support. RSF said that about 100 rescue teams with a total of 3,500 rescuers are registered on the UN platform and are ready to deploy to Morocco if requested.
The Spanish military said it had sent an air force plane to Marrakech carrying an urban search and rescue team of 56 soldiers and four dogs, a sign that Morocco may be preparing to receive more outside help. Foreign Minister José Manuel Alvarez said in a radio interview that the deployment was in response to a request for help from Moroccan authorities. Another rescue team from Nice, France is also on the way.
Towns in France, home to many people with ties to Morocco, have provided more than 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in aid and popular performers are rallying to raise donations.
The epicenter of Friday’s quake was near the town of Igil in Hauz province, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Marrakech. The area is famous for its scenic villages and valleys in the High Atlas Mountains.
Collapsed walls exposed the interiors of damaged houses and piles of rubble blocked alleys about 45 kilometers (28 miles) northeast of the quake. In Moulay Brahim, a poor rural community of less than 3,000 people, many homes built of clay bricks and cinder blocks have been destroyed or are no longer safe.
Every town along the steep, winding switchbacks of the High Atlas Mountains was devastated, with houses toppled, people crying and boys and helmeted police officers carrying the dead through the streets.
Fatna Bechar of Mulaibrahim said: “I was sleeping when the earthquake happened. I couldn’t escape because the roof collapsed on me. I was trapped. Neighbors cleaned up with their bare hands Rubble, saved me.” “Now I live with them in their house because mine was completely destroyed.”
Hamid Idsalah, a 72-year-old mountain guide, said he and many other survivors had little future to look forward to because they lacked the financial means to recover.
Rescuers, backed by soldiers and police, searched for victims among collapsed houses in the remote town of Ardasil near the epicenter. Military vehicles brought in bulldozers and other equipment to clear the road from fallen rocks on the hillside, state news agency MAP reported. Ambulances carried dozens of injured people from the village of Tikht, population 800, to the Mohammed VI University Hospital in Marrakech.
In Marrakech, authorities were assessing the damage, with large pieces missing from saw-toothed roofs and only twisted metal, broken concrete and dust remaining in buildings cordoned off.
Tourists and residents lined up to donate much-needed blood. Jalila Guerina said that when she learned of the need, she ran to help because of her duty as a Moroccan citizen.
“I didn’t even think twice about it, especially in situations where people are dying, especially in their moment of need, any help,” she told The Associated Press.
Stray cats crawled over piles of rocks and wooden slats at the market, but there were few shoppers at the stalls set up by food and souvenir vendors under parasols.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake that struck at 11:11 p.m. had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 and lasted several seconds. A magnitude 4.9 aftershock occurred 19 minutes later. The collision of the African and Eurasian plates occurs at relatively shallow depths, making earthquakes more dangerous.
It was the strongest earthquake to hit the North African country in more than 120 years, according to records from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), but it was not the deadliest. USGS records date back to 1900. In 1960, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the Moroccan city of Agadir, killing at least 12,000 people. That earthquake prompted Morocco to change its building rules, but many buildings, especially rural homes, were unable to withstand such an earthquake.
In 2004, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima, killing more than 600 people.
Friday’s quake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to Portugal’s Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research and Algeria’s civil protection agency, which oversees the emergency response.
Angela Charlton in Paris, Brian Mely in London, Mark Carlson in Marrakesh and Huda Benalla in Rabat, Morocco also contributed.