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Morocco earthquake: Race against time to find survivors

Volunteers watch as a digger moves rubble of collapsed houses in Tafeghaghte, 60 kilometres (37 miles) southwest of Marrakesh, on September 10, 2023   -  
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FADEL SENNA/AFP or licensors


Moroccan rescue workers, backed by foreign teams, continued Monday in a race against time to find survivors and provide assistance to hundreds of homeless people whose homes were razed to the ground, more than 48 hours after the earthquake that killed more than 2,100 people.

Morocco announced on Sunday evening that it had responded favorably, "at this stage", to offers from four countries "to send search and rescue teams": Spain, Great Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

These teams have been in contact with their counterparts in Morocco with a view to coordinating their efforts, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Spain said it had already sent 86 rescue workers to Morocco, accompanied by dogs specialized in searching for victims, while a Qatari humanitarian flight took off on Sunday evening from the Al-Udeid air base on the outskirts of Doha, according to an AFP journalist.

Other offers could be accepted in the future "should needs evolve", the ministry added.

Numerous countries, from France to the United States and Israel, had offered to help Morocco in the wake of the devastating earthquake, which left 2,122 people dead and 2,421 injured, according to the most recent report.

Pending the deployment of foreign rescue teams on the ground, the Moroccan authorities have begun to erect tents in the High Atlas, where villages have been completely destroyed by the earthquake.

Apocalyptic landscape

Rescue workers, volunteers and members of the armed forces are working to find survivors and pull bodies from the rubble, particularly in villages in the province of Al-Haouz, the epicenter of the quake south of the tourist city of Marrakech in central Morocco.

In Tikht, a small village near Adassil, a minaret and a handful of unpainted clay houses stand amidst an apocalyptic landscape.

"Life is over here," laments Mohssin Aksum, 33, a resident. "The village is dead.

Not far away, Moroccan security forces are digging graves for the victims, while others are setting up yellow tents for earthquake survivors left homeless.

The earthquake, which struck late on Friday evening and registered a magnitude of 7 according to the Moroccan Center for Scientific and Technical Research (6.8 according to the US Seismological Service), was the strongest ever measured in Morocco.

Faced with the scale of the destruction, solidarity is being organized in Marrakech, where many residents have rushed to hospitals to donate blood for the victims.

"We're collecting food to help the areas affected by the earthquake," Ibrahim Nachit, a member of the Draw Smile association, told AFP. The association is also planning to send a "medical caravan" to the worst-hit areas.

"I think the food supplies collected today should be able to support at least 100 families for a week", added Abdeltif Razouki, vice-president of the association.

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