Original Author: Constant Méheut
Search and rescue efforts intensified on Saturday in Morocco after a powerful earthquake killed at least 1,000 people and injured hundreds more overnight, with national authorities deploying the military to hard-hit areas and foreign partners promising aid.
But it remained unclear how quickly emergency teams would be able to reach the victims and prevent more deaths. Many of the areas affected by the quake are remote mountain villages that are not easily accessible, and a statement on Saturday evening from the office of King Mohammed VI did not clarify whether the country would formally request foreign assistance to allow outside rescue teams to intervene.
The king ordered the country’s armed forces to deploy aircraft, helicopters and troops to help with the rescue efforts, according to a statement from the government. Local television showed images of trucks crammed with soldiers driving toward the devastated areas, in the High Atlas Mountains, in the southwest of the country.
Authorities said that about half of the victims were in the Haouz region, a rural area with many mud-brick houses and little earthquake-resistant infrastructure.
Some roads have also been blocked by landslides caused by the earthquake, said Sami Fakhouri, the acting head in Morocco of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, a major humanitarian network.
“The accessibility will be difficult and it will make the rescue efforts more challenging,” Mr. Fakhouri said.
The Moroccan government said in a statement on Saturday afternoon that it had restored access to six roads, but that 14 other regional roads were still blocked.
Mr. Fakhouri said that his organization was coordinating with Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior to deploy medical teams and ambulances to transport the injured, as well as the dead.
Several governments and charity groups, including Doctors Without Borders, have also offered to send aid and rescue teams. Officials in Turkey, which was struck by a massive and deadly earthquake in February, said the country was ready to send 265 aid workers to Morocco as well as 1,000 tents.
Other countries, including the United States, France and Taiwan, have also pledged humanitarian aid. But Morocco would first need to formally request assistance, a step required before foreign crews can deploy.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, a government organization, said in a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, that its personnel “stand by to be dispatched to the region in case of a call for international aid from Morocco.”
In a sign of the scale of the disaster, even countries with a history of conflicted relations with Morocco have pledged to provide assistance.
Israel, which only normalized relations with Morocco in 2020, has offered help, and Algeria, which severed relations with its neighbor two years ago, said it was ready to reopen its airspace to humanitarian and medical flights to Morocco.