Death toll nears 3,000 in Morocco after magnitude 6.8 earthquake destroys villages

The search and rescue window is quickly closing days after the deadly 6.8 magnitude Earthquake rocked the mountainous villages outside Marrakech.

MARRAKECH, Morocco – Hope is dimming in Morocco as search teams continue to scour the rubble for survivors and victims four days after a monster 6.8 earthquake destroyed dozens of buildings in the mountainous region southwest of Marrakech.

The powerful earthquake rocked the African nation on Friday at 11:11 p.m. local time when many residents were at home or asleep. As of Tuesday, the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces reports 2,901 people have died from the quake, and more than 5,500 are injured. The earthquake is the deadliest for western Morocco since the 5.8 magnitude quake in 1960, which claimed the lives of up to 15,000 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The USGS reports the strongest earthquake was recorded near the rural town of Oukaïmedene, which includes many residences not built to withstand an earthquake. 

Despite the dangerous conditions, rescuers are still pulling victims from the rubble days after the deadly earthquake. Video from Moulay Brahim shows a team pulling an injured person from a crumbled building and rescuers embracing after successfully finding the person alive. 

The Royal Moroccan Armed Forces have set up a field hospital and are airlifting patients out of the region for critical care. 

Hundreds of families have been displaced in the Al-Haouz region. The Moroccan Civil Defense Institution is providing food, clothing and shelter near the earthquake epicenter where a tent city has been established to house displaced survivors. 

The World Health Organization estimates the earthquake impacted more than 30,000 people in Marrakech and surrounding areas.


Morocco earthquake relief efforts ‘still evolving’ and ‘extemely complex’

Teams with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are responding to the disaster area. Moroccan Red Crescent (MRCS) teams are providing first aid, and psychosocial support and helping transport the injured to hospitals, according to the IFRC. More than 230 volunteers with the Moroccan Red Crescent are helping with relief efforts and blood donations across multiple provinces. 

Help from other nations has been offered, however, Morocco has only accepted help from Spain, Britain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, reports Reuters. Officials in Italy, Belgium, France and Germany said their offers for assistance had not been approved yet by the Moroccan government. 

The delayed acceptance has left some rescue groups in Europe perplexed. 

During a United Nations update on Tuesday, IFRC Global Director of Operations Caroline Holt offered thoughts on why help from some countries had not yet been accepted. 

"I think coordination and careful consideration at this moment in time is key and that is what I see, and that is what I understand is happening with the Moroccan authorities," Holt said. "We know that this is extremely complex, accessing these hard-to-reach areas. The needs are still evolving, and probably, the full picture is probably unclear at this moment."

Some of the worst affected areas are in remote and mountainous areas, making the region difficult to reach. Video from the Armed Forces shows teams hiking up steep terrain to reach the disaster area. 

"The Moroccan government is taking careful steps with regard to opening up, accepting bilateral offers of support from government and really as we've seen focusing on that search and rescue window before that window unfortunately closes in the coming hours," Holt said. 

On Tuesday, the IFRC launched an emergency appeal for 100 million Swiss Francs to scale up relief efforts of the Moroccan Red Crescent. Within 24 hours of the quake, the IFRC approved 1 million Swiss Francs from the Disaster Response Emergency Fund.

An estimated 6,000 people have died within the span of a week from natural disasters in North Africa. Flooding from Storm Daniel in Libya has claimed the lives of about 3,000 people with thousands still missing.