ASNI, Morocco — The toll from a devastating earthquake that swept Morocco has grown, with at least 2,497 people killed and 2,476 injured, the country’s Interior Ministry said Monday. Rabat has accepted search-and-rescue assistance from Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the United Kingdom, as authorities and aid groups continue to look for survivors of the 6.8-magnitude quake that destroyed homes and shattered lives throughout the High Atlas Mountains.
Here is the latest on the devastating earthquake in Morocco:
This is the strongest earthquake to hit the area in more than a century, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said in a preliminary report. Earthquakes of this size there are “uncommon but not unexpected,” it said, adding that none with a magnitude higher than 6 has been recorded since 1900.
The earthquake struck about 47 miles southeast of Marrakesh at a depth of about 11 miles, putting it in the category of a shallow earthquake, a type that tends to be more destructive. More than 300,000 people in Marrakesh and its outskirts have been affected by the disaster, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
At least four French nationals were killed and some 15 injured, according to preliminary assessments of the earthquake’s impact, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told BFM television early Monday. She said authorities are still searching for a few French nationals. France, Morocco’s former colonial ruler, will give 5 million euros ($5.4 million) to nonprofits on the ground to support search-and-rescue efforts, Colonna said.
Americans were injured in the earthquake, but the State Department is not aware of any U.S. citizen deaths, a spokesperson wrote Sunday in an unsigned email. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Sunday with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and discussed how the United States could contribute. Blinken said Sunday on CNN that “we await word from the Moroccan government to find out how we can help, where we can help, but we’re ready to go.”
The worst-hit areas are among the poorest in Morocco, with some homes lacking electricity or running water, even in better times. “The reality is that the moment you step out of Marrakesh, the people are essentially living as if they are back in the Middle Ages because of the absence of the state,” said Samia Errazzouki, an expert in Moroccan history and governance at Stanford University.
In Asni, about 25 miles south of Marrakesh, a military field hospital and displacement camp were set up for civilians from devastated nearby communities. The field hospital, which is equipped for surgery, had not yet received any patients Monday. Several ambulances nearby sat idle.
Morocco’s civil protection service erected 30 tents for families at the camp, who in some cases had to double up. Inside, women and children sat on thick rugs laid out on the dirt. Tea kettles were perched on propane tanks. Young children, dusty after two days in the camp, played in the dirt. One family in a tent said they received some food and supplies from the government, but it wouldn’t have been enough without additional assistance from associations. There are no toilets, one woman said, so if people need to use the bathroom, they go to one of the destroyed houses nearby.
In Marrakesh, people described desperate evacuations as walls crumbled around them. Videos on social media showed Marrakesh’s largest minaret swaying as people below ran away. Elsewhere in the city, residents shielded their mouths from the dusty air and reached out to one another for support as they navigated narrow alleyways in near darkness.
“The situation is currently stable,” Yaqoubi Abdelhadi, a doctor at a medical center near the epicenter, said Sunday afternoon, as aid workers with the Red Cross and Red Crescent rushed women hooked to IVs into waiting ambulances. “But since people haven’t yet come from remote areas, we are in high alert to brace for what may come.”
About 19.3 million people were exposed to the earthquake, according to USGS data released Saturday morning. Cellphone networks in the worst-affected areas had stopped working, leaving family members across the country and around the world waiting anxiously for news.
Several nations and groups offered assistance for Morocco — including France, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, China, Austria and earthquake-ravaged Turkey. Algeria also offered to reopen its airspace to help with aid and medical evacuations, the Associated Press reported. Algeria closed its airspace to Morocco in 2021 amid a long-standing dispute over Western Sahara.
But Morocco has so far only taken up offers of expert search-and-rescue assistance from four countries, causing puzzlement among others that had scrambled emergency teams. A 50-person team from Germany’s Technical Relief Agency assembled at Cologne Bonn Airport over the weekend was sent home on Sunday after their offer for help was not taken up, as others in Europe also remained grounded. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told BFM television that the controversy over aid not being accepted was being overblown, describing it as an “inappropriate quarrel.” Morocco said on Sunday it would only initially accept teams from Spain, Qatar, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates after taking into account the “needs of the field” and in order to enhance coordination.
The U.S. Embassy in Rabat warned that hospitals in Marrakesh and other major cities “have limited capacity,” and it said hospitals in the worst-affected areas “may become strained.”
More from our correspondents
‘The world is done for me’: This Moroccan family lost everything in the quake. Said Afouzar was at his sister’s house when the earthquake hit. As soon as the ground started to tremble, he rushed up the street to reach his wife and two children at home, Claire Parker and Sima Diab report from Amizmiz, Morocco.
The moment he reached for the doorknob, the house collapsed.
Afouzar could hear his family screaming for help. He began to dig frantically through the rubble, pushing on even after a falling object injured his knee. Neighbors joined him. By 2 a.m., they had managed to pull his wife out from under the debris. Around 10 a.m. Saturday, they reached his children. It was too late.
Timsit reported from Paris, Morris from Berlin, and Fahim from Istanbul.