Morocco earthquake updates: Aftershock rocks rescuers as death toll surpasses 2,000; U.N. mission inventories damage to historic sites

A magnitude 3.9 aftershock rocked Morocco on Sunday, rattling rescue workers and residents whose homes withstood Friday's magnitude 6.8 temblor that killed more than 2,000 people and turned ancient towns to rubble.

The United Nations estimated that 300,000 people were affected by the quake. Digging out survivors from crumbled buildings remained the emphasis on Sunday.

“There are a lot of blocked roads, a lot of people can't find their parents and a lot of people are still under the rubble," Adeeni Mustafa, who lives 30 miles south of Marrakech in the town of Asni, told the BBC. "People are still searching for their relatives. Everything came down on them, the mountains, their homes."

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent said it had immediately released $1.1 million to support the Moroccan Red Crescent emergency response. President Joe Biden promised U.S. assistance, although most international aid crews were on hold awaiting formal requests for assistance from the Moroccan government.

“We know there is a great urgency to save people and dig under the remains of buildings,” said Arnaud Fraisse, founder of Rescuers Without Borders, who was on hold in Paris waiting for approval to enter Morocco. “There are people dying under the rubble, and we cannot do anything to save them.”

A small team of disaster experts from the U.S. arrived in Morocco on Sunday to assess the situation, according to Reuters. 

Britain on Sunday said it would deploy 60 search-and-rescue officers, four sniffer dogs, and a four-person medical assessment team. Rescue teams from Spain and Qatar also left for Morocco.

Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims of the disaster.

Residents flee their homes after an earthquake in Moulay Brahim village, near the epicenter of the earthquake, outside Marrakech, Morocco, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.


∎The death toll from the quake has risen to 2,122 dead and 2,421 injured, Al Alaraby TV reported, citing the Moroccan Ministry of Interior.

∎Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant pledged Israel’s assistance “as much as is required.” The two countries have improved ties in recent months, and Morocco's Senate president was scheduled to be one of the few Muslim leaders ever to visit Israel's parliament.

∎Morocco’s King Mohammed VI declared three days of mourning.

Morocco earthquake updates:Morocco earthquake updates: Photos show devastating aftermath; death toll surpasses 2,000

In Moulay Brahim '10 seconds and everything was gone'

Death, desperation and sadness blanketed the mountain village of Moulay Brahim as rescuers picked through the destruction in search of life and human remains. The village of less than 3,000 people about 30 miles south of Marrakech, named after a 17th-century Muslim Sufi saint, was among the most hard-hit areas. The village is relatively poor despite the tourists that frequent the area for a view of its vistas. And now many residents are homeless after the earthquake shattered antiquated dwellings made of clay bricks and cinder blocks.

“We felt a huge shake like it was doomsday,” resident Ayoub Toudite told the Associated Press. “Ten seconds and everything was gone.”

Villagers erected a huge tent normally constructed for weddings, this time to provide shelter for some whose homes were destroyed.

“People are suffering here very much. We are in dire need of ambulances. Please send us ambulances to Moulay Brahim. The matter is urgent,” Toudite implored. “Please save us.”

U.N. mission inventories damage to historic sites

The epicenter of Friday's quake was about 40 miles south of Marrakech, a city of 1 million people and the heart of Morocco's tourist industry. Part of a 12th century mosque tower in Jemaa el-Fnaa square in Marrakesh's Old City collapsed, causing injuries and damage to property nearby. 

The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said it sent a mission to the Marrakesh area to help local authorities inventory damage to cultural and educational sites, to help make building safer and to prepare for reconstruction.

"All my support to the Moroccan people after this terrible earthquake that has claimed so many victims and caused so much damage," said UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay.

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