AMIZMIZ, Morocco – September 9, 2023 – Morocco is grappling with the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake that struck the High Atlas mountains on Friday night, resulting in the country’s deadliest seismic event in more than 60 years. The disaster has left more than 1,000 people dead, and countless others have been left homeless in its wake.
The earthquake, which registered a magnitude of 6.8 according to the U.S. Geological Survey, had its epicenter approximately 72 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech. This ancient city, known for its historic charm, suffered damage to its cherished historic buildings. However, the greatest devastation unfolded in the remote mountainous regions to the south.
Amizmiz Village: Scenes of Devastation
In the village of Amizmiz, located near the earthquake’s epicenter, a heart-wrenching scene unfolded as rescue workers tirelessly sifted through rubble with their bare hands. The narrow streets were obstructed by fallen masonry, and outside a local hospital, grieving relatives stood in anguish beside around 10 bodies covered in blankets.
One resident, Mohamed Azaw, recounted his desperate efforts to protect his family: “When I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet and the house leaning, I rushed to get my kids out. But my neighbors couldn’t,” he lamented. Tragically, no one from that family survived. The father and son were found dead, while the search continues for the mother and daughter.
Challenges Amidst the Rubble
Rescue efforts faced daunting challenges as they grappled with rubble-strewn streets. Fallen boulders blocked critical roads, further hampering the attempts to reach affected areas. In Asni, a village roughly 40 kilometers south of Marrakech, nearly every house suffered damage, forcing villagers to spend the night outdoors. Food shortages were widespread as collapsed roofs rendered kitchens unusable.
Community Resilience: The Search for Survivors
Despite the grim circumstances, communities like Asni united in their quest to find survivors. Montasir Itri, a resident of Asni, emphasized their determination, stating, “Our neighbors are under the rubble, and people are working tirelessly to rescue them using whatever means are available in the village.” It’s a testament to the unwavering spirit and resilience of the Moroccan people in the face of adversity.
International Impact and Humanitarian Crisis
The earthquake’s powerful tremors reverberated far beyond Morocco’s borders, reaching as far as southern Spain, specifically in Huelva and Jaen, within the region of Andalusia. The World Health Organization estimated that more than 300,000 people were affected in Marrakech and the surrounding areas, exacerbating the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Rebuilding Marrakech’s Heritage
Marrakech, renowned for its UNESCO World Heritage status, faced significant losses due to the earthquake. A mosque minaret in the heart of its historic city, Jemaa al-Fna Square, succumbed to the tremors, symbolizing the profound impact on the city’s rich cultural heritage. Injured individuals from the affected areas sought medical treatment in Marrakech, further straining the city’s resources.
Conclusion: A Nation’s Resilience
As Morocco grapples with the aftermath of this devastating earthquake, the nation’s response underscores its resilience and unity. Despite the immense challenges, communities are rallying together to support one another, and concerted efforts are underway to rebuild and heal. While the tragedy is undeniable, so is the strength and determination of the Moroccan people as they chart a path towards recovery and restoration.