Emergency workers search a destroyed building in Amizmiz on September 10
Source of the photo: Nacho Doce
On Friday September 8, 2023, a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 7 struck Morocco, causing widespread destruction. The epicentre was situated in the High Atlas Mountain range, approximately 72 kilometres southwest of Marrakech. Tragically, the earthquake claimed the lives of 2,681 people, while leaving 1,204 reported as injured.
The aftermath of this catastrophe has been further combined by a magnitude 4.5 aftershock that struck the region the day after, causing more damage to historic buildings and fear among residents. Local resident Farima Boujaoune communicates the dire situation briefly, saying: “We’re living through a disaster. We sleep in the cold, wake up to soaked blankets, and lack proper tents and shelters. The fear of more aftershocks hangs over us.” The catastrophe has impacted over 300,000 individuals, as estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO), serving as an estimation of human suffering for the purpose of resources allocation.
North Africa has experienced several series of significant earthquakes that have left an enduring impact on the region. For instance, the earthquake of 1960, which struck the western city of Agadir, with a magnitude of 5.7, ranks as one of the deadliest in the 20th century. This disaster resulted in the tragic loss of approximately 12,000 lives and left 25,000 individuals wounded. Similarly, Algeria experienced the El-Asnam Earthquake in 1980, characterized by a magnitude of 7.3. Originating from the Atlas Mountain range, the earthquake caused significant destruction and loss of life, imprinting a lasting impact on the collective memory of the affected communities.
At present, Majesty King Mohammed VI has mobilized the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity to support citizens in affected areas. They have coordinated civil protection units to increase stocks in blood banks and ensure the availability of vital resources, such as water, food, tents, and blankets. Many residents have rapidly rushed to hospitals to donate blood for the benefit of the victims. With these efforts, Moroccan Red Crescent (MRCS) teams actively strengthen response initiatives. They are providing necessary first aid, offering psychosocial support to those affected, and assisting in the transportation of the injured to hospitals.
Aziz Akhannouch, the prime minister of Morocco, called a meeting on September 11, 2023, to discuss the efforts being made to rebuild the earthquake-devastated regions. “Those residents who have lost their houses will be compensated,” said Akhannouch, adding that a full plan will be released soon.
Despite coordinated response, families are enduring immense hardship and despair, particularly in Imine Tala village. This is due to a cliff collapse that has left people trapped beneath rubble. Despite four days passing, the authorities have not yet dispatched the necessary equipment for rescue operations, resulting in stressful situations. According to Moroccan officials, this has to deal with insufficient road infrastructure and challenging mountainous terrain that makes reaching these rural villages extremely difficult.
As Moroccan authorities work actively to address the crisis, several other nations are also prepared to offer their support as a sign of international solidarity. Morocco has received a warm reaction from countries such as Spain, the UK, Qatar, and the UAE. As a result, the interior ministry has positively embraced their inflow of humanitarian assistance to aid those in need. Other nations such as France and the USA have also offered their aid, although their efforts are yet to formally be accepted by the Moroccan government step required before foreign crews can deploy.
As nations extend their support, it is crucial to recognize the approaching winter season. As the season is approaching it is likely to worsen the already dire circumstances. Many Moroccans now find themselves facing the prospects of enduring the harsh season without proper shelter.
Although earthquakes in Morocco are relatively infrequent, occurring approximately once a century. It is worth noting, and I agree, that the spontaneous rarity presents a unique challenge for Rabat to consider possible preventative measures. The massive reliance on mud bricks in construction makes rural populations highly vulnerable to earthquakes. Subsequently, finding the right balance between investment in earthquake resilience buildings and the unpredictability of when the next earthquake might occur, is a complex issue.
About the author:
Amal TAHIRI, currently interning at MEPEI, is an undergraduate student at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, where she is majoring in International Public Policy. Her academic focus centers on policy analysis, diplomacy, and regional studies, reflecting her interest in shaping global affairs.