Whole mountain villages wiped out; hundreds of families decimated and thousands of people lying in the squares for their second night outside their homes. Some driven by the terror of aftershocks – which give no respite – and others because they no longer have a place to go home. The earthquake that hit Morocco yesterday night, at 11.11 pm, devastated the region southeast of Marrakech. The latest bulletin from the Ministry of the Interior defines the scope of the massacre: 2,012 dead and 2,059 injured, of which over 1,400 seriously.
Most of the deceased are concentrated in the province of Al Haouz (1,293 people) and, to a lesser extent, in Taroudant (452), both located south of Marrakech, where the death toll stopped at thirteen. Al Haouz is the epicenter of the 6.8 magnitude quake, at a depth of 18.5 kilometers, according to the American Geological Observatory (USGS). The Moroccan National Center for Scientific and Technical Research (Cnrst) indicated a magnitude of 7 degrees of the Richter scale at a depth of 8.5 kilometers. In any case, it is the strongest shock ever recorded in the history of the country. The last one that comes close in range – magnitude 5.7 – dates back to 1960 in Agadir, not very far from the affected region. At that time it caused 12,000 deaths (a third of the local population at the time). The most recent in 2004, in Al Hoceima, with 628 dead and 926 injured (6.3 degrees). Tafeghaghte and Moulay Brahim are among the places most affected. Small mountain villages (we are in the High Atlas), about fifty kilometers from the epicenter. “They have been completely wiped out. The mountain collapses have blocked roads and made it difficult for help to arrive,” said the Minister of Justice, Abdelilah Wahbi, who is also mayor of Taroudant. The army has arrived in these villages to dig through the rubble, with helicopters for relief efforts and bulldozers to make their way through. But while the soldiers dug through the remains, the inhabitants dug the first graves: some families were decimated. The lady wrapped in a blanket who has the microphones of state TV listed the names of her husband and her four children, all lost, has already become a symbol of her. And many others like her.
About seventy kilometers away in Marrakech, citizens live in suspension. Waiting for yet another bulletin from the Ministry of the Interior, which is published every three to four hours. And in the hope that the earth will stop shaking so I can go home. The historical monuments, which make the city a World Heritage Site, have not been spared. The walls of the medina have collapsed in several places.
The city hospital, where almost all the wounded were taken before the military field hospitals were set up, has suffered from a shortage of blood bags. He appealed to citizens to come and donate. And the Moroccans responded throughout the country, so much so that the emergency ended almost immediately.
The solidarity was not only internal. The world’s leaders from the G20 immediately made themselves heard. They have assured their closeness and guaranteed all the necessary support. From India to the United States, China to Ukraine, even Israel and Palestine. The EU leaders have signed a letter to Ventisette (a formula that applies only to big events). Algeria, with which relations are (or perhaps were) at an all-time low, has reopened the airspace to facilitate the passage of humanitarian aid. The first rescue teams have already arrived and others are expected for the day, from Senegal to France, from Spain to Qatar.
The country – which has declared mourning for three days – is shaken but not divided. It is wounded but not abandoned. King Mohammed VI has already given a mandate to form a ministerial control room that will deal with reconstruction. In the meantime, however, the next bulletin is awaited.
The wave motion lasted about 30 seconds. Extensive material damage. The police forces, civil protection and medical and paramedical personnel were mobilized to prepare a possible emergency plan. The balance of the earthquake is updated minute by minute, as data arrives from the cities and above all from the mountain resorts close to the epicenter. The villages dotting the Atlas are very poor, often have no internet connection and the houses are built with the characteristic pisé wall, made of straw, mud and stones.
The Italian ambassador in Rabat, one of our desks at Marrakech airport
A desk of the Italian diplomatic representation has been activated at Marrakech airport to assist Italians. This was confirmed by the Italian ambassador in Rabat, Armando Barucco, speaking with RaiNews24. “All the flights are full, after the scare the tourists want to leave – he explained -: what we suggest doing is for those who already have a ticket from Marrakech to go to the airport. For those who don’t yet have a ticket, first of all look for one one but not necessarily from Marrakech”. “So far we have managed to get in touch with all the reports” regarding the Italians in Morocco, reassured Barucco speaking with RaiNews24, confirming that at the moment there are no Italians involved: “We monitor hour by hour – he said – also with the Moroccan authorities “.
The earthquake in Morocco was comparable to that of 1980 in Irpinia
The earthquake in Morocco was “extremely energetic, almost equivalent to the earthquake in Irpinia in 1980”, reported Carlo Doglioni, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology. Having occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers when it was just after midnight in Italy, the earthquake which occurred along the Atlas mountain range has a magnitude calculated by some as 6.8 and by others as 7, considering the margin of uncertainty that always accompanies this type of measure. The earthquake in Irpinia on 23 November 1980 was of magnitude 6.9. In the earthquake that occurred in Morocco, very strong energy was released, but it is not at the level of the earthquake in Turkey in February 2023, Doglioni further observes: “The earthquake in Turkey caused the destruction of 200,000 buildings and 50,000 deaths, over an area of 50,000 square kilometers. In the case of Morocco the surface area involved is smaller.”
The Pope’s pain, “deep solidarity” with Morocco
“Having learned with pain of the earthquake that violently struck Morocco”, Pope Francis expresses “his communion in prayer in the face of this natural disaster”. “Sad by this event”, we read in a telegram of condolence for the victims sent through Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the Pontiff expresses his “deep solidarity with those who are touched in the flesh and in the heart by this tragedy”: pray “for the repose of the deceased, for the healing of the wounded and for the consolation of those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and their home”. Francis asks the Almighty to support the Moroccans in this ordeal and offers his encouragement to the civil authorities and rescue services.”
Mattarella, we are available to contribute to the relief efforts
“The news of the earthquake that struck Morocco this night has aroused immense sadness in all Italians and in me personally. In this very painful circumstance for the friendly Moroccan people, I would like to convey to Your Majesty, the Government and all the families of Italy’s expressions of deep condolences and my heartfelt condolences to those who lost their lives.” This is what the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella wrote in a message sent to the King of Morocco Muhammad VI. “We are close to you with feelings of authentic solidarity and wish the injured a complete recovery, demonstrating our willingness to contribute to the complex rescue work”, concludes Mattarella.
Meloni: “Solidarity and support from Italy”
“The Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, today in New Delhi for the G20 Summit, learned with pain the tragic toll of the devastating earthquake that hit Morocco”. This was reported by a note from Palazzo Chigi. “Meloni – it is explained – expressed closeness and solidarity to Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch , to the families of the victims and to the Moroccan people, demonstrating Italy’s full availability to support Morocco in this emergency”.
Modi’s condolences from the G20
“Extremely saddened by the loss of life to the earthquake in Morocco.” Before welcoming the leaders to the G20 in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his closeness to the North African country hit by the earthquake in a tweet. “In this tragic hour, my thoughts go to the people of Morocco – he added -. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones. May those who were injured recover as soon as possible. India is ready to offer all possible assistance to Morocco in this difficult moment”.