“We’re just waiting for Morocco’s green light,” a European Union official told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Here’s the latest on the devastating earthquake in Morocco:
This was the first quake of such magnitude to hit the area in more than 100 years, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said in a preliminary report. It said earthquakes of this size there were “uncommon but not unexpected,” and added that there had been none with a magnitude higher than 6 since 1900.
The earthquake struck about 47 miles to the southeast of the city of Marrakesh, at a depth of about 11 miles (18.5 kilometers), putting it in the category of a shallow earthquake, which tend to be more destructive.
The vastness of the quake zone and the complexity of the terrain is making rescue efforts difficult, according to Caroline Holt, director of disaster, climate and crises for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Some affected areas were only reachable by helicopter, she said, adding that heavy machinery needed to clear rubble may be difficult to transport through such mountainous terrain.
The quake’s epicenter was in al-Haouz province, a mountainous and rural area where rescue workers have struggled to get past fallen debris and through difficult terrain to reach victims. More than 1,000 people had died there, according to the Interior Ministry.
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 each other for support as they navigated narrow alleyways in near-darkness.
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.
President Biden said he was “deeply saddened” by the loss of life, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the United States would “provide any necessary assistance” to Morocco.
Several nations and groups offered assistance for Morocco — including France, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, 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, when the two countries severed diplomatic ties over issues including a long-standing dispute over Western Sahara.
The U.S. Embassy in Rabat warned U.S. citizens that hospitals in Marrakesh and other major cities “have limited capacity,” and said that local hospitals in the most affected areas “may become strained.”
4. From our correspondents
Morocco earthquake survivors saw houses crumble and their neighbors fall: Aziz Taki had experienced earthquakes before, but “not like this,” he said.
The 40-year-old father in Marrakesh was awakened by his wife shortly after 11 p.m. on the night of the earthquake. They had to leave to immediately, she said.
Taki lived on the ground floor of his family home in Marrakesh and first got his wife and daughter into the alley. Then he went upstairs to get his father, mother and two brothers. His 93-year-old father was initially resistant to leaving, but a collapsing roof eventually coaxed him outside.
Bodies littered the streets. Dust was everywhere. Everyone was screaming. Pushed up against each other, the neighbors moved toward a nearby square, where they hoped they would be safe from collapsing buildings.
Near his house, Taki saw a neighbor in his 30s stumble outside his home, covered in dust. He took three or four steps and collapsed in the spot where he would die.
“I was heartbroken,” Taki said over the phone. “Imagine the fact that the person who is dying in front of you was once a neighbor and a friend.”