ASNI, Morocco — The Moroccan Interior Ministry 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 a 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 there had been none with a magnitude higher than 6 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 French authorities are still searching for a few French nationals. France, Morocco’s former colonial ruler, will give 5 million euros ($5.4 million) to non-profits 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 at this time, a spokesperson wrote Sunday in an unsigned email. “We are aware of a small number of U.S. citizens injured in the earthquake, and are on standby to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” the spokesperson said. “Due to privacy considerations, we do not have further comment on the injured U.S. citizens.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Sunday with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, according to a statement from State Department spokesman Matthew Miller: “The Secretary and Foreign Minister Bourita discussed how the United States can best support the Government of Morocco’s leadership of the humanitarian response to this tragedy.” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning 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.
Buildings are crumbling more than a day after the earthquake. In one ruined home in the town of Amizmiz, traces of its former inhabitants could be glimpsed in the debris: velveteen blankets, suitcases, rugs, a sagging mattress buckling under the weight of what was once the second-floor ceiling. Most of the residents of this town have sought higher ground, where there are stretches of flat, dry land on which to pitch tents.
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.
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 home to reach his wife and two children, 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.
Loveluck reported from London, Mahfouz from Cairo and Timsit from Paris. Berger and Rosenzweig-Ziff in Washington contributed to this report.